By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON, Sept 17 (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday the United States was reviewing evidence that suggests Iran was behind the attacks on Saudi oil facilities and stands ready to defend its interests and allies in the Middle East.

“We’re evaluating all the evidence. We’re consulting with our allies. And the president will determine the best course of action in the days ahead,” Pence said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.

President Donald Trump had warned that the United States was “locked and loaded” to respond to the attacks, but has emphasized he does not want a war.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was traveling to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to discuss the response to the attacks, Pence said.

“The United States of America will take whatever action is necessary to defend our country, our troops, and our allies in the Persian Gulf. You can count on it,” Pence said.

If Iran conducted Saturday’s attacks to pressure Trump to lighten sanctions aimed at pressuring Tehran over its nuclear program, that strategy will fail, Pence said.

Iran has denied being behind Saturday’s attacks, which knocked out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production. The Houthi group, an ally of Tehran which is fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, says it conducted the strikes with drones which were powered by both normal and jet engines.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; writing by Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Alistair Bell)