Saudi Arabia says its oil pipeline was hit by drones

Saudi Arabia says its oil pipeline was hit by drones

But it demonstrated the raised risks for shippers in a region vital to global energy supplies as tensions are increasing between the USA and Iran over its unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

The attacks caused "significant damage to the structures of the two (Saudi) vessels", Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday, calling the incident "sabotage".

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia said it had stopped pumping crude oil along a major pipeline on Tuesday following a drone attack, hours after Yemen's Huthi rebels said they had targeted vital Saudi installations.

Washington has increased sanctions on Tehran, saying it wants to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero, after quitting the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and global powers past year.

Two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian-flagged vessel were said to be damaged.

The ships - including two Saudi oil tankers, an Emirati ship and the Norwegian tanker Andrea Victory - were docked in the sea off the coast of Fujairah, the official added.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Cooperation Council on Sunday termed the attack on the four commercial vessels as "dangerous escalation (that) speaks of the evil intentions", reported CNN.

"We need to do a thorough investigation to understand what happened, why it happened, and then come up with reasonable responses short of war", Ambassador John Abizaid told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh in remarks published on Tuesday.

The U.S. supports Saudi Arabia and its allies in the war against the Houthis, despite criticism that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have killed civilians.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened a "swift and decisive" response to any attack by Iran. Yadollah Javani, the IRGC's deputy head for political affairs, spoke after U.S.

A general view shows a new plant inaugurated March 22, 2006 in Haradh, about 280 kilometers (170 miles) southwest of the eastern Saudi oil city of Dhahran. But he also said, "Neither we, nor them is seeking war".

Saudi Arabia halted its main cross-country oil pipeline temporarily after a drone attack damaged pumping stations along the link, a strike claimed by Iran-backed rebels in neighboring Yemeni.

Conversely, the USA has pointed the finger at Iran regarding the Fujairah attacks, with USA military investigators saying that either Iran or groups affiliated to it were likely to blame for the attack.

The US has previously warned that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region and, in recent days, deployed warships to counter what it called "clear indications" of threats from the country.

"The events that took place in the Emirates were Israeli mischief", declared Iranian parliamentary spokesman Behrouz Nemati, without providing any evidence for the allegation.

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran have increased, Tehran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The assessment, while not conclusive, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible and comes after a series of U.S. warnings against aggression by Tehran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region, reports Efe news.

"Reports on Sunday of explosions in Fujairah are likely to add further impetus to a potentially growing risk premium in the region, with initial reports suggesting oil tankers specifically were targeted in an apparent sabotage", Vienna-based consultancy JBC Energy said.

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