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Saudi reopens key oil pipeline after drone attack: Aramco

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The official from state oil giant Aramco told AFP that the East West Pipeline "is fully operational".

[RIYADH] Saudi Arabia has reopened a key oil pipeline, an official said Thursday, after it was shut down by drone attacks claimed by Iran-aligned Yemen rebels.

The official from state oil giant Aramco told AFP that the East West Pipeline "is fully operational".

Yemen's Huthi rebels had claimed responsibility Tuesday for twin drone strikes on the pipeline from the oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea coast.

That came amid spiralling tensions between the United States and Iran after Washington sent a maritime strike group to the region and a series of mysterious sabotage attacks hit ships in the Gulf.

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The pipeline, which can pump 5 million barrels of crude per day, provides a strategic alternative route for Saudi exports if the shipping lane from the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz is closed.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait, a vital conduit for global oil supplies, in case of a military confrontation with the US.

Saudi Arabia's deputy defence minister Khalid bin Salman accused Iran of ordering the pipeline strikes, which he labelled "terrorist acts".

"The attack by the Iranian-backed Huthi militias against the two Aramco pumping stations proves that these militias are merely a tool that Iran's regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region," he wrote on Twitter.

The Huthis said the attacks were to avenge Saudi actions in Yemen.

Riyadh and its allies intervened in the Arab world's most impoverished country in 2015 to bolster the government of Yemen President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi as the Huthis seized much of the country including the capital Sanaa.

Coalition-backed forces have retaken much of the south but the capital and most of the populous central highlands remain in rebel hands.

More than four years of conflict have triggered what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Over 24 million people, more than two-thirds of the population, are in need of aid.

AFP