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European Powers Back U.S. In Blaming Iran For Saudi Oil Attack, Urge Broader Talks


French President Emmanuel Macron (L) meets with German chancelor Angela Merkel (2-R) and British prime minister Boris Johnson (R) at the United Nations headquarter on september 23, 2019
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 23 (Reuters) -

Britain, Germany and France backed the United States and blamed Iran on Monday for an attack on Saudi oil facilities, urging Tehran to agree to new talks with world powers on its nuclear and missile programs and regional security issues.

The Europeans issued a joint statement after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron met at the United Nations on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders.

European leaders have struggled to defuse a brewing confrontation between Tehran and Washington since U.S. President Donald Trump quit a deal last year that assures Iran access to world trade in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

"The time has come for Iran to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear programme as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles programme and other means of delivery," Britain, France and Germany said.

Tensions rose on Sept. 14 with an attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, which Riyadh and Washington have blamed on Iran. Tehran denies responsibility and Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group, which has been battling a Saudi-led military coalition, has said it carried out the attack.

"It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation. We support ongoing investigations to establish further details," Britain, France and Germany said in a statement.

The United States will intensify pressure on Iran, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook said in New York on Monday.

The United States was seeking to address the issue through diplomacy and a multilateral effort and that there was a role for the United Nations Security Council to play, Hook said without elaborating.

In an interview with U.S. network NBC on Monday, Johnson said Trump was "the one guy who can do a better deal ... I hope there will be a Trump deal."

Trump flirted with meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani while both are in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, but the chances appear slim.

Speaking after he arrived in New York on Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran's message to the world "is peace, stability and also we want to tell the world that the situation in the Persian Gulf is very sensitive," the state news agency IRNA reported.

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