Saudi energy minister: oil output 'back to normal' by end of month

King Salman calls on the world to confront those behind strikes on two Aramco sites

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said on Tuesday that the kingdom was capable of defending itself against "cowardly" attacks, and he called on the international community to confront those behind Saturday's strikes on two Aramco sites.

And the kingdom's Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said in Jeddah that the country's oil output would be "back to normal" by the end of the month.

Prince Abdulaziz said that almost half of the production cut by the attack on an oil processing plant had already been restored.

He said that production capacity would be up to 11 million barrels per day before the end of September. It had been about 9.6 million bpd before the attack.

The Saudi Cabinet reviewed the damage caused by two Houthi-claimed drone strikes on Saudi Aramco's Abqaiq oil-processing plant and the Khurais oilfield, which caused the country's oil production to temporarily fall by almost 50 per cent.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the operation but Washington blamed Iran, with President Donald Trump saying the US is "locked and loaded" to respond.

King Salman called on world governments to confront the perpetrators of the attack and "shoulder the responsibility by condemning the perpetrators", the state-run news agency reported.

“The kingdom is capable of defending itself against cowardly attacks and of responding to such acts, regardless of their origin," he said.

Also on Tuesday, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid called on his country's armed forces to be on high alert and prepared to confront any incident after the Aramco attacks, state news agency Kuna reported.

Iran earlier claimed that Yemen's Houthi rebels had carried out the attack as an act of self-defence.

But the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, said the "justification for the unprecedented terrorist attack on Aramco's facilities in view of the developments in the Yemen war is completely unacceptable".

Dr Gargash also urged the international community to stand behind the kingdom.

"The attack on Saudi Arabia is a dangerous escalation in itself, and the right position of every Arab country and every responsible state in the international community must be with Saudi Arabia and with the stability and security of the region," he posted on Twitter.

Hours earlier, the Arab Coalition said the weapons used to strike Saudi Aramco sites were made by the Iranians. Iran has denied involvement.

"Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, warned on Monday that attacks on Saudi Arabian oil plants at the weekend made a larger regional conflict more likely.

“At a minimum, this kind of action carries the risk of dragging Yemen into a regional conflagration,” Mr Griffiths told the UN Security Council.

A satellite image showing damage to oil/gas Saudi Aramco infrastructure at Khurais, in Saudi Arabia in this handout picture released by the U.S Government September 15, 2019.  U.S. Government/DigitalGlobe/Handout via REUTERS    THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

“Of one thing we can be certain, that this very serious incident makes the chances of a regional conflict that much higher, with Yemen in some way linked. None of that is good for Yemen.”

A spokesman for the Houthi rebels said after the attack that Saudi Arabia should expect more attacks.

An Arab Coalition led by Saudi Arabia backs the Yemeni government against the Houthis in a civil war that began in 2015.

The rebels have been using drones in combat since the start of the war.