Saudi oil production back on line -energy minister

Panic in the oil market eased on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia's energy minister said the kingdom has already restored oil production after an attack this weekend took out 5 percent of global oil output.


Early in the day, a top Saudi source told Reuters oil production would be back on line within two to three weeks instead of months as first suggested.


At a press conference on Tuesday, the Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, along with the chairman of state-run Saudi Aramco and the company's CEO were united in a message to reassure the market that Saudi oil is available.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SAUDI ENERGY MINISTER ABDULAZIZ BIN SALMAN, SAYING:

"Over the last two days the damaged has been contained and more than half of the production capabilities that were damaged as a result of the attack have been recovered. The company will meet its commitments to its customers for this month by withdrawing from its reserves of crude oil."


This is the first public statement on oil production given since a weekend attack on key Saudi facilities crippled more than half of Saudi oil production in the largest single supply disruption in half a century.


With supply concerns easing, global oil prices dropped about $4 or roughly 6 percent Tuesday, but prices remain elevated. Investors worry the attack on the Saudi facilities could set off a chain of events that sparks a confrontation between the region's two large enemies - Saudi Arabia and Iran - and drags in Saudi ally - the United States.


Saudi King Mohammed Bin Salman called on the world's governments to confront threats to global oil supplies.


On Tuesday, United States Vice President Mike Pence weighed in - saying the U.S. was reviewing evidence it believes suggest Iran was behind the attacks and will stand ready to defend its interests and those of its allies in the Middle East.


A U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday that the attacks originated in southwestern Iran.


Iran refutes any claims it had anything to do with attack.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headed to Saudi Arabia for discussions.