Iran's foreign minister Mohammed Zarif has warned Tehran is prepared for "all out war" if the US launches a military strike on the country.
Speaking to CNN, Zarif made the threat over claims in Washington that Iran was responsible for an attack on Saudi oil facilities last week.
Houthi rebels currently fighting Saudi Arabia in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, which caused massive fires at two of the nation's largest oil facilities.
Locked and loaded
But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speculated that Iran — which backs the Houthis in Yemen — was in fact behind the attack, which was carried out using drones.
President Donald Trump is believed to have asked the Pentagon for possible retaliation against Iran over the attack, and tweeted that the US was "locked and loaded." He later tweeted that sanctions against the country would be increased.
The former French ambassador to Iran, François Nicoullaud, told Euronews that it would be a "new dimension" if Iran had initiated the operation though it's "almost certain" that if the Houthis are behind it they were helped by Iran.
"It has long been believed that Iranians provide technical, logistical and training support to the Houthis, perhaps also through Lebanese Hezbollah. That's it, there is cooperation between the two. If it is the Iranians themselves who initiate the operation, that is another new dimension. Interestingly enough, whether it's the Houthis or the Iranians, all parties have "good reasons", if you will, for carrying out such an operation," he explained.
Asked by CNN what Iran's response would be in the event of a military strike, Zarif said: "All-out war".
"I make a very serious statement about defending our country. I am making a very serious statement that we don't want to engage in a military confrontation," said Zarif. "We won't blink to defend our territory."
Pompeo is currently in Saudi Arabia discussing responses to the attack last week with the de facto ruler of the kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman.
“This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before,” Pompeo told reporters. “The Saudis were the nation that were attacked. It was on their soil. It was an act of war against them directly.”
Saudi Arabia is keen to make the case that Iran, its major regional rival, is behind the attack, and claimed to have evidence that the Houthis could not have carried it out.