Mystery shrouds 'sabotage' of oil tankers in tense Gulf

The USS Abraham Lincoln in the waters of Western Pacific Ocean in 2004. The ship is now heading to the Middle East

The USS Abraham Lincoln in the waters of Western Pacific Ocean in 2004. The ship is now heading to the Middle East

"If they do anything it'll be a very bad mistake, if they do anything", Trump told reporters on Monday during a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House. "If they do anything they will suffer greatly".

Amid escalating tensions with Iran, President Donald Trump's top national security advisers reviewed military plans last week that would send more 120,000 USA troops to the Middle East "should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons", The New York Times reported Monday. It also would reverse years of retrenching by the American military in the Middle East that began with President Barack Obama's withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011.

Tehran meanwhile called for an investigation into Sunday's "alarming" attacks off the Emirati coast and warned of "adventurism" by foreign players to disrupt maritime security.

On Sunday night four oil tankers - two Saudi, one UAE-registered, and one Norwegian-registered - were attacked by an unidentified projectile, but were not significantly damaged.

Hook said Washington and European leaders were on the same page in their assessment of the threat posed by Iran, even if they disagree about staying in the accord.

"Italy and Greece stopped their purchases, while the United States had granted them some waivers".

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British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt called for "a period of calm".

"We're always prepared if attacked".

United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq called on "all concerned parties to exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace, including by ensuring maritime security".

The attack took place at two stations near Afif and Dawadimi on the pipeline that carries petroleum from oilfields in the country's east to the Red Sea port of Yanbu, Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih was cited as saying by the official SPA news agency. A video report by Abu Dhabi's Sky News showed the hull of one vessel, the Andrea Victory, appearing to be twisted in one area from an impact at the waterline, though it was unclear exactly what had occurred.

A Reuters witness said divers were inspecting the ships.

Saudi Arabia's production and export of crude oil will continue uninterrupted, but pumping in the targeted pipeline was stopped temporarily, he said.

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Iran has rejected the allegation and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that "extremist individuals" in the us government were pursuing unsafe policies, stoking a war of words with Washington over sanctions.

The warning came amid rising tensions between Washington and Iran, a sign of which was the United States decision to send a Patriot missile battery and a Navy amphibious transport dock ship to the Middle East.

Oil prices initially spiked in response to news of the attacks, but were largely flat in trading on Tuesday.

"Four commercial ships were subjected to sabotage operations today, 12 May, near UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of Fujairah", the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement carried by state news agency WAM.

Amid escalation of tensions between arch rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, the incident adds to the rising tensions in the region as Fujairah is close to the strategically crucial waterway Strait of Hormuz.

This was not the first provocative action taken by Bolton in recent weeks.

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The Houthis also have flown into the radar arrays of Saudi Arabia's Patriot missile batteries, according to the research group Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the rebels to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged.

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