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Saboteurs attack Saudi oil vessels amid Middle East tensions

By Clyde Hughes
Saboteurs attack Saudi oil vessels amid Middle East tensions
Ships are seen Monday anchored at the main port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, after officials said multiple vessels were sabotaged. Photo by Ali Haider/EPA-EFE

May 13 (UPI) -- The government of Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in a move it says could seriously affect global oil supplies.

UAE officials said four commercial vessels had been damaged, and Saudi officials said two of its ships -- on their way to be filled with crude oil -- were sabotaged. It wasn't immediately clear if the Saudi vessels were among the four reported by the UAE.

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The attacks come amid rising tensions in the Middle East region over new U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The incidents also come after the U.S. Maritime Administration warned in an advisory Iran could go after commercial ships and oil production facilities in the area.

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One of the Saudi ships had planned to deliver crude from the Port of Ras Tanura to the United States, officials said. The report originating from the state-run Saudi Press Agency said sabotage caused "significant damage to the structures of the two vessels" but did not report any deaths or spills from it.

The UAE said the attacks occurred in the Gulf of Oman, east of Fujairah.

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"This attack ... aims to undermine the freedom of maritime navigation and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world," Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement." [It is] the joint responsibility of the international community to protect the safety of maritime navigation and the security of oil tankers, to mitigate against the adverse consequences of such incidents on energy markets, and the danger they pose to the global economy."

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Seyyed Abbas Mousavi, Iran's foreign ministry representative, called the incident "alarming and regrettable" Monday but warned against "plots by ill-wishers to disrupt regional security." Mousavi called for regional states to take action against "any adventurism by foreign elements."

Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council denounced the sabotaging incidents Monday, calling it "a serious escalation which demonstrates evil intents of those who planned and carried it out, undermining the safety of maritime traffic in the region and threatening the safety and lives of those on board."

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