Saudis flag pipeline interruption, tanker damage

A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in London

A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in London

The attack on two oil pumping stations has not disrupted oil production or the export of crude and petroleum products, according to the energy minister of the world's largest oil exporter.

The vital pipeline has a capacity of at least five million barrels per day.

The spokesman of the rebels, Mohammed Abdel-Salam, says the Houthis launched a series of drone attacks on Tuesday on the kingdom.

Nearly all the oil exports of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran itself, at least 15 million barrels per day, are shipped through the Strait of Hormuz.

The stations reportedly targeted lie west of Riyadh, at Dawadmi and Afeef.

Acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan proposed a revamped military plan at a meeting with senior national security aides that would send up to 120,000 United States troops to the Middle East were Iran to attack American forces or speed up nuclear weapons development, The New York Times reported.

"A U.S. official in Washington, without offering any evidence, said that an American military team's initial assessment indicated Iran or Iranian allies used explosives to blow holes in the ships, including two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati oil tanker", the news agency reported.

He said the incident was an "act of terrorism. that not only targets the kingdom but also the security of oil supplies to the world and the global economy".

He said that the "terrorist act" proves the importance of confronting all "terrorist" entities that carry out such "subversive" acts, including "Houthi militias".

Riyadh separately announced that two of its oil tankers, apparently among the four, were "sabotaged" off the coast of Fujairah.

Two editors of Iranian news outlets say Iran is claiming responsibility for the attacks on four ships anchored off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, according to MEMRI, an worldwide media monitoring organization.

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A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis for four years in Yemen to try to restore the internationally recognised government, in a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Iranian officials have denied any involvement in the attacks and have blamed Israel for trying to inflame military tensions between Iran and the United States.

Abu Dhabi did not blame any party for the alleged attacks, which Iran's Foreign Ministry later described as "worrying and regrettable".

Abizaid's comments come after the New York Times revealed on Monday that acting US Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan for action against Iran to top security aides in US President Donald Trump's administration last week.

Officials at the UAE port of Fujairah said on Tuesday limpet mines, explosive devices attached to the hull of a targeted vessel by magnets, appeared to damage the ships.

Two tankers belonging to Saudi Aramco had suffered significant damage as a result of the attacks, whose causes remain unknown.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shared information on what he called escalating threats from Iran during meetings with European Union counterparts and the head of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Brussels on Monday, the US special representative for Iran Brian Hook said.

A fifth of global oil consumption passes through the Strait of Hormuz from Middle East crude producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond.

"With rising tensions between Iran and the USA, and with significant naval build-up in the region, markets are sensitive to news and can be tipped by the smallest signs of a conflict", said Mihir Kapadia, CEO of Sun Global Investments.

Iran and the United States have engaged in a war of words in recent weeks since Tehran began to roll back commitments set out in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

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