Tehran: In dramatic escalation of tension, Iran on Sunday dismissed US accusations it was behind drone attacks on Saudi oil installations, suggesting the United States was looking for an excuse to retaliate against the Islamic republic.
‘‘Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying in a statement.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had condemned Iran after Saturday's attacks, which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia's oil production.
Yemen's Iran-aligned Shiite Huthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the drone strikes, but Pompeo said "there is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen".
"The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression," the top US diplomat tweeted.
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 deal that promised Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Since the withdrawal, the United States has slapped crippling sanctions on Iran as part of a campaign of "maximum pressure" and the Islamic republic has responded by reducing its commitments to the nuclear accord.
"The Americans have taken the policy of 'maximum pressure' which has apparently turned into 'maximum lying' due to their failures," said Mousavi.
The arch-foes were on the cusp of confrontation in June when Iran downed a US drone and Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before cancelling them at the last minute.
In remarks published Sunday, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' aerospace arm said Iran's missiles could hit US bases and ships within a range of 2,000 kilometres (about 1,240 miles).
Iraq, meanwhile, has denied suggestions that the attacks had originated from its territory. The prime minister’s office said Iraq was committed to preventing its territory being used as a launch pad for attacks against its neighbours.
But the Iraqi government has limited control over several powerful Iran-backed militias that operate within its borders. Their presence in Iraq has undermined the Iraqi government’s efforts to remain neutral as tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen.