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Two Saudi Oilers Among “Sabotaged” Vessels Off the UAE

RIYADH – Saudi Arabia said two of its tankers were sabotaged off the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during attacks that caused “significant damage” to ships, AlJazeera reported Monday.
One of the ships was en route to recover Saudi oil destined for the United States, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Monday.
Al-Falih’s announcement comes as United Arab Emirates regional allies on Sunday condemned the sabotage of four ships off the port city of Fujairah.
On Sunday, Iranian and Lebanese media leaked reports of explosions in the port of the city but the UAE authorities said the information was inaccurate.
UAE officials refused to specify the nature of the ship’s sabotage or to say who could have been responsible for it.
The reports come as the United States warned ships that “Iran or its agents” could target shipping in the area and that they were deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers in the Gulf to counter this, that they called Tehran threats.
United Arab Emirates says four vessels sabotaged off the east coast.
Shortly after the Saudi announcement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry asked for clarification on what exactly happened to the Saudi oil companies.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, quoted by the official IRNA news agency, said that there should be more information about the incident.
Mousavi also warned against any “conspiracy orchestrated by villains” and “the adventurism of foreigners” aimed at undermining the stability and security of the maritime region.
Tensions have increased during the year since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers restoring US sanctions that plunged the Iranian economy into a crisis.
Last week, Iran warned that it would start enriching uranium to higher levels within 60 days if the world powers did not negotiate new terms for the deal.
In his statement, al-Falih said that the attacks on the two tankers took place Sunday at 6 am.
“One of the two ships was about to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura and to be delivered to Saudi Aramco’s customers in the United States,” al-Falih said.
“Fortunately, the attack did not kill or spill oil, but it did cause considerable damage to the structures of both ships.”
Saudi Arabia did not identify the vessels involved and did not specify to whom it suspected the alleged sabotage.
Highlighting regional risk, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, composed of six countries, described the so-called sabotage as a “serious escalation” in a statement made overnight.
“Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflict in the region and expose its people to great danger,” Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said.
The internationally recognized government of Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen has also condemned the alleged sabotage.
A statement issued Sunday by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs placed the vessels near the country’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of Fujairah Port.
She said she was investigating “in cooperation with local and international organizations”.
Earlier on Sunday, Al-Mayadeen, a pro-Iranian Lebanese satellite channel, citing “Gulf Springs”, said a series of explosions had hit Fujairah’s port.
The Iranian and semi-official Iranian media picked up Al-Mayadeen’s report, which then released the names of the ships allegedly involved.
The AP news agency, after speaking with UAE officials and local witnesses, said reports of explosions in the port were unfounded.
The port of Fujairah is located about 140 km south of the Strait of Hormuz, a small mouth of the Gulf by which one-third of all offshore oil is traded.
The facility processes oil for refueling and shipping as well as general and bulk cargoes.
It is considered strategically located, serving shipping routes in the Gulf, Indian subcontinent and Africa.
Sunday’s incident comes after the US Maritime Administration, a division of the US Department of Transportation, warned Thursday that Iran could target commercial shipping.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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