4 ships targeted by "sabotage" in UAE port, initially denied by authorities

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4 ships targeted by "sabotage" in UAE port, initially denied by authorities

Emirati officials on Sunday declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that while the attack did not lead to any casualties or an oil spill, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels.

Fujairah lies just north of Oman and is located 85 miles south of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's crude oil passes. The Saudi statement said the tankers were positioned off the emirate of Fujairah at the time and one was on its way to the Saudi port of Ras Tanura to be loaded with oil for delivery to the United States.

The spike in tensions follows the Trump administration's decision to lift sanctions waivers from eight countries that import Iranian oil, in a bid to bring Iran's exports down to "zero", according to USA officials.

After several days of consolidation, U.S. West Texas Intermediate and international-benchmark crude oil futures are trading higher on Monday shortly before the regular session opening.

It's also been reported that the government of Fujairah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, in a tweet denied media reports about blasts inside Fujairah port and said the facility was operating normally.

U.S. President Donald Trump signs a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, May 8, 2018.

He also "warned against plots by ill-wishers to disrupt regional security" and "called for the vigilance of regional states in the face of any adventurism by foreign elements", the statement added. It said "the precise means of attack or sabotage is unknown".

The news comes after the Pentagon deployed the USS "Abraham Lincoln" carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Persian Gulf to send what US National Security Advisor (NSA) John Bolton said was an "unmistakable message" to Tehran.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday expressed "regret" for the sabotage of commercial vessels and asked for more details "on the exact extent of of this incident".

Falih said the attack aimed to undermine maritime freedom and the security of oil supplies to consumers all over the world.

The Saudi Minister called on the worldwide community to protect maritime navigation and oil tanker security to prevent "adverse consequences" for energy markets and the global economy.

The general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council called the incident a "serious escalation".

"This is a unsafe escalation representing evil intentions by those that planned and executed this operation", GCC secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani said in a statement.

The trade turmoil has prompted hedge funds to cut their bullish wagers on US crude oil to the lowest level in a month and raised their bets on Brent crude to the highest in almost seven months, USA government data showed on Friday. Iran has said it will not let its oil exports be halted.

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