Iran leader rules out US talks as tensions rise over Saudi attacks
TEHRAN, Sept 17: Iran's supreme leader on Tuesday ruled out negotiations with the US "at any level", as tensions mounted between the arch-foes after Washington blamed Tehran for attacks on Saudi oil installations.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US adopted a policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran because it believes it cannot bring the Islamic republic to its knees through other means.
The leader was speaking after devastating drone attacks at the weekend that halved oil output of Iran's regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia -- the world's top crude exporter.
"The policy of 'maximum pressure' against the Iranian nation is worthless and all Islamic Republic of Iran officials unanimously believe there will be no negotiations with the US at any level," he said in a televised address.
Tensions between Iran and the US and its allies have threatened to boil over since May last year when President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of "maximum pressure".
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear programme.
Trump said the US was ready to help Saudi Arabia after the attacks that halted about six percent of the world's oil supply and triggered a record leap in crude prices.
"I'm not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to," he said. "That was a very large attack, and it could be met by an attack many, many times larger.
"Certainly, it would look to most like it was Iran," Trump added.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper also singled out Iran as a regional destabilising force, while stopping short of directly accusing Tehran over the strikes.
The US military, he said, was working with its partners to "address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran". -AFP