Saudi foreign minister says his country will defend itself against Iranian threats

Mark Stone - Middle East correspondent

The Saudi minister for foreign affairs has told Sky News his country will do whatever it takes to defend itself against Iran.

In an exclusive interview with Sky News, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir also confirmed that Saudi Arabia is consulting with the UK about military support.

"We have a responsibility to defend our country and to ensure that no harm comes to our country and our peoples," the minister said.

"And so we will do whatever it takes to prevent our country from sustaining damages. Preparing for war? War is always the last option."

His words came as the Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Maj-Gen Hossein Salami told Iranian state media: "Our readiness to respond to any aggression is definitive. We will never allow a war to enter our land. We will pursue any aggressor. We will continue until the full destruction of any aggressor."

In response, Mr al-Jubeir said: "We will do whatever it takes to protect our nation. Period.

"Iran has engaged in aggressive behaviour for 40 years. They have destroyed Lebanon through Hezbollah, they have sent militia to destroy Syria, they have militias in Iraq, militias in Yemen and provide them with ballistic missiles and drones.

"They have set up cells in various countries Kuwait, Bahrain, SA to cause terrorist attacks."

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US Defence Secretary Mark Esper confirmed that Donald Trump has authorised the deployment of US forces to the region but he stressed they were there in a defensive nature.

"The president has approved the deployment of US forces, which will be defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defence," he said.

"We will also work to accelerate the delivery of military equipment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to enhance their ability to defend themselves."

While the UK has not confirmed any increased military presence in the region, Mr al-Jubeir said consultations were taking place. He is due in London after this week's UN General Assembly in New York.

"The UK also been one of our staunchest allies when it comes to security. We are in consultations with the UK in this area," he told Sky News.

"The UK has agreed to provide naval assets in order to help with maritime security. The gulf countries, the US, the UK, I believe Australia are now providing assets to protect maritime security and the flow of energy."