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Saudi oil tankers attacked on way to Persian Gulf

[DUBAI] Saudi Arabia said two of its oil tankers were attacked while sailing toward the Persian Gulf, adding to regional tensions as the U.S. increases pressure on Iran.

The Saudi tankers were damaged subjected in "a sabotage attack" off the United Arab Emirates coast on Sunday morning, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported. The vessels were approaching the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil transport route. The U.A.E. foreign ministry reported on Sunday an attack on four commercial ships near its territorial waters, calling it a "serious development."

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the incident aims "to undermine the freedom of maritime navigation, and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world," according to SPA. He called on the international community to ensure 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."

The reports come at a time of heightened tensions in the Gulf. The U.S. has deployed an aircraft carrier, bomber planes and defense missiles to the region amid worsening friction with Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival, which has threatened to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. halts its energy exports.

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Antagonism between the U.S. and Iran worsened this month after Trump eliminated exceptions to U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales. The Islamic Republic responded by threatening to scale back its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the incident as "concerning and regrettable" and called for efforts to shed light on what exactly happened, the semi-official Tasnim News reported. He warned against "foreign seditious plots to upset the region's security and stability."

Targeted Tankers

The U.A.E.'s foreign ministry said it's investigating the incident with local and international parties. No one was hurt, and no fuel or chemicals were spilled, the state-run WAM news agency quoted the ministry as saying. One of the two Saudi tankers was on its way to the port of Ras Tanura to load oil for shipment to the U.S., according to SPA.

Global crude benchmark Brent for July settlement traded up US 38 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to US$71 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange on Monday.

The Strait of Hormuz connects the Gulf to the Indian Ocean. Iran is to the north and the U.A.E. and Oman to the south. Hormuz is the single most important waterway for global oil shipments, with tankers hauling about 40per cent of all the crude traded internationally every day. All oil exports from Kuwait, Iran, Qatar and Bahrain, more than 90 per cent of those from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and 75 per cent of shipments from the U.A.E. pass through the strait.