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AFP
June 16, 2019

Threats against energy supplies Saudi Arabia urges ‘decisive’ response

World

AFP
June 16, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister on Saturday called for a "swift and decisive" response to threats against energy supplies following twin attacks on tankers in a vital Gulf shipping channel.

"There must be a swift and decisive response to the threat against energy supplies... created by the recent terrorist acts in the Arabian Gulf," Khalid al-Falih was quoted as saying on the ministry’s Twitter page.

He was speaking at a meeting of G20 energy and environment ministers in Japan after the attacks on Thursday, which sent crude prices soaring amid a tense standoff between Iran and the US.

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman when it was rocked by explosions, causing a blaze that was quickly extinguished.

US President Donald Trump said the twin attack, which also targeted a tanker owned by Oslo-listed company Frontline, had Iran "written all over it".

Falih has previously said the kingdom was monitoring the situation with "great concern" and called for action to secure maritime traffic, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, is a bitter regional rival of Iran.

Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the United States.

Doing so would disrupt oil tankers travelling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes.

But Trump has played down the threat.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair oil tanker has left Iran’s territorial waters and was under tow to the UAE two days after it was attacked in the Gulf of Oman, shipping officials said on Saturday.

The tanker was one of two vessels that were rocked by explosions as they passed through Gulf of Oman waters on Thursday.

The Front Altair is "heading toward the Fujairah-Khor Fakkan area in the United Arab Emirates", head of ports of Iran’s southern province of Hormozgan told the semi-official news agency ISNA.

The tanker "has left Iran’s territorial waters," he said, adding that it was being towed and sprayed with water to cool the hull.

The Norwegian company which owns the ship confirmed it had left Iranian waters and said specialists would board the vessel on Saturday to assess the damage.

"The 23 crew members of the ‘Front Altair’ remain safe and well, with plans being made for their repatriation soonest," Frontline Management said.

The crew, who were rescued by Iran after the vessel caught fire and transferred to Bandar Abbas, were to fly to Dubai on Saturday night, ISNA said.

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