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Western countries involved in Gulf oil tanker attack investigation: UAE

Two Saudi oil tankers were targeted in the attack [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 May, 2019

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The United States, France and Norway are involved in the investigation into the attack on oil tankers in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates said.
Three Western countries will be part of an investigation into mysterious "sabotage attacks" on ships in the Gulf, an Emirati official said on Tuesday, amid rising tensions in the Gulf region.

The United States, France and Norway were involved in the investigation along with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, the official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said, noting the investigation into Sunday's incident was launched with the support of the Western experts. 

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.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE gave details on the nature of the attacks or accused anyone of responsibility.

Fujairah port is the only Emirati terminal located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, through which most Gulf oil exports pass.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait in case of a military confrontation with the United States, though it denies any involvement into the attack.

The United States has already strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged Iranian threats.

Iran rivals Saudi Arabia for influence in the Middle East, with the two taking opposing sides in multiple regional conflicts including in Yemen.

On Tuesday, drone attacks claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels shut down one of Saudi Arabia's major oil pipelines, further ratcheting up Gulf tensions after the sabotage of the ships.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude exporter and OPEC kingpin, said two pumping stations had been targeted early Tuesday.

Houthi rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam wrote on Twitter that the attacks were "a response to the aggressors continuing to commit genocide" against the Yemeni people.

'Israeli mischief'

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in the Yemen war to bolster the internationally recognised government's efforts against the Houthis in March 2015.

The attacks came after the US deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group, an amphibious assault vessel, a Patriot missile battery and B-52 bombers, triggering fears of a possible military confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday said Washington does not want war with Iran, though vowed to keep pressuring Tehran amid rising tensions.

Washington and its Gulf allies stopped short of blaming Riyadh's regional arch-rival Tehran for the sabotage, but US President Donald Trump warned Iran against doing anything to harm US interests.

"If they (Iran) do anything, it would be a very bad mistake," Trump warned at the White House.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani hit back, saying the Islamic Republic was "too great to be intimidated by anyone".

On Monday, Iran denied it is responsible for alleged attacks on four ships at the UAE port of Fujairah, saying Israel or the US was to blame for the acts of sabotage. 

On Tuesday an Iranian parliamentary official, Behrouz Namati, blamed "Israeli mischief" for the attacks on the four ships, which included two Saudi oil tankers, a Norwegian vessel, and an Emirati vessel.

Namati did not give further details regarding alleged Israeli involvement.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that he was worried about "suspicious acts of sabotage currently taking place in the region".

He said that "radical" and "extremist" elements in the Trump administration could have been behind the operation, adding that "we had earlier predicted that they will adopt such measures to provoke tensions".


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