Initial US assessment blames Iran for ship attacks

UAE says four vessels targets of 'sabotage' in waters near Fujairah port

The US Maritime Administration said in an advisory on Sunday that the incidents off Fujairah, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, have not been confirmed and urged caution when transiting the area. It did not describe the nature of the attack or say who was behind it.

Thome Ship Management, a Norwegian firm which manages the ship, said in a statement that had been "struck by an unknown object on the waterline" while anchored off Fujairah.

A Reuters witness said divers were inspecting the ships.

Iran, embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over sanctions and the USA military's presence in the region, moved on Monday to distance itself.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman called the incidents yesterday to ships near the coast of Fujairah "worrisome and terrible", and asked for an investigation into the matter.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the head of Iran's parliamentary national security committee, fired back on Monday by suggesting "saboteurs from a third country" were responsible, implying the ships were attacked by American agents seeking to create an excuse for military action against Iran.

A US official familiar with American intelligence told Reuters news agency on the condition of anonymity that Iran is a leading candidate for having carried out attacks, but said the United States does not have conclusive proof Tehran was behind them.

"It fits their M.O".

As Iran begins the process of separating itself from the nuclear deal in response to United States sanctions, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif arrived in Delhi Monday night to explain Tehran's point of view to the Indian leadership. He said the UAE had sought USA help in the investigation and Washington was glad to provide this.

It remains unclear if the previous warning from the U.S. Maritime Administration is the same perceived threat that prompted the White House to order the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region on May 4.

The U.S. has warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.

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Ahead of the meeting, Britain's foreign secretary said he was concerned about the possibility conflict might break out in the region.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set out a year ago a series of conditions for European powers if they wanted Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal, including continued purchases of Iranian oil.

In an attempt to reduce Iran's crude exports to zero, Washington ended, at the beginning of May, waivers that had allowed the top buyers of Iranian oil to continue their imports for six months.

IOC, BPCL and HPCL have not placed a request for extra Saudi oil for June after the Kingdom raised official selling price for Asia, the sources said.

Trump on Monday said Iran would "suffer greatly" if it targeted US interests.

In a tweet, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said investigations in the incident were ongoing but that the government had its "own readings and conclusions".

The narrow waterway forms a crucial link between the vast oil reserves of the Gulf states and the energy-hungry markets of Asia, and there are nearly no alternate throughways.

- In January 2012, Iran threatened to block the Strait in retaliation for the United States and European sanctions that targeted its oil revenues in an attempt to stop Tehran's nuclear programme.

Between 17 million and 18 million barrels per day of crude oil pass through the strait, including 90% of Saudi Arabia's output, according to Rystad Energy-equivalent to about 40% of the crude traded globally. -Chinese trade talks spooked investors. Brent crude, the worldwide standard, gained $1.14 to $71.76 per barrel.

The crude oil tanker Amjad, one of two Saudi reported tankers that were damaged in mysterious "sabotage attacks", off the coast of the UAE emirate of Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman, May 13. "Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels". It lost 3 cents to $61.66 on Friday. The UAE foreign ministry also dismissed as "baseless and unfounded" reports about U.S. and French warplanes flying over Fujairah during the time of these tanker blasts.

"The global community (needs to) assume its responsibilities to prevent any parties trying to undermine the security and safety of maritime traffic", the ministry said.

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