Saudi crown prince says kingdom isn’t seeking war in region


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday that the kingdom is not seeking war in the region, but warned it will not hesitate to confront threats to its security.

His comments came just days after the U.S. blamed Iran for suspected attacks on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, denouncing what it called a campaign of “escalating tensions” in a region crucial to global energy supplies. The U.S. alleges Iran used limpet mines to target the tankers, pointing to black-and-white footage it captured that American officials describe as Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from the Kokuka Courageous.

Iran has rejected the U.S. claim that it was responsible for Thursday’s attacks, saying it stands ready to play an active and constructive role in ensuring the security of strategic maritime passages.

Iran has also been accused of being behind the May 12 attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Two of those vessels belonged to Saudi Arabia.

In his first public comments since the start of these incidents, the powerful Saudi prince, who is also defense minister and oversees all major levers of power in the country, said the attacks “confirm the importance of our demands of the international community to take a decisive stance” against Iran’s behavior.

“The kingdom does not seek war in the region, but we will not hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, sovereignty and vital interests,” he said in an interview with the Arabic newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat.

He accused rival Iran of using militias to destabilize the region. He also touted U.S.-Saudi relations as “essential to achieving regional security and stability.”

“The problem is in Tehran and not anywhere else,” he said. “Iran is always the party that’s escalating in the region, carrying out terrorist attacks and criminal attacks either directly or through its militias.”

In recent days, Yemeni rebels known as Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile strike on a Saudi airport in the city of Abha that the kingdom said wounded 26 passengers. The Houthis also carried out a drone strike last month on a key Saudi oil pipeline.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of arming and training the rebels, which the kingdom has been at war against in Yemen since early 2015.

“The choice before Iran is clear. Do you want to be a normal state with a constructive role in the international community or do you want to be a rogue state?” the crown prince was quoted as saying.

His comments mirrored those made by his father, King Salman, at emergency summits held in Mecca last month that drew heads of state from Arab and Muslim countries to address the sharp rise in tensions with Iran.

Thursday’s apparent attacks in the Strait of Hormuz forced the evacuation of all 44 sailors aboard the two vessels. On Saturday, Associated Press journalists saw the crew members of the Norwegian-owned oil tanker MT Front Altair arrive at Dubai International Airport, after spending two days in Iran.

The Front Altair, which caught fire after the apparent attack, limped into anchorage Sunday off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, near the port city of Khorfakkan.