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Oil tankers 'sabotaged' as Gulf tensions soar

AFP  |  Fujairah (UAE) 

Four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, were damaged in mysterious "attacks" that have inflamed Gulf tensions amid a standoff between the and

In the face of growing international concern, US scrapped a planned visit to and headed to instead for talks Monday with European officials, as Britain warned of the danger of conflict erupting "by accident" in the Gulf.

Turning up the pressure on after the deployed bombers and an assault ship to bolster an in the region, warned that would "suffer greatly" were it to "do anything" to threaten US interests.

"If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake," Trump warned at the "If they do anything they will suffer greatly."

Acting proposed a revamped military plan at a meeting with senior national security aides that would send up to 120,000 US troops to the were to attack American forces or speed up nuclear weapons development, Times reported.

Other options have been floated, and this one includes the highest number of troops.

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

A said the Saudi and Amjad were attacked off the emirate of Fujairah along with the Norwegian Andrea Victory and an Emirati ship, the A. Michel.

Saudi Arabia, the Islamic republic's regional arch-rival, condemned "acts of sabotage" and a "criminal act", a foreign ministry said.

Neither nor the UAE gave details on the nature of the attacks or accused anyone of responsibility.

No link has officially been drawn between the incidents and US accusations that was planning "imminent" attacks against US interests in the region.

Asked whether the believed Iran played a role, Brian Hook, the for Iran, declined to comment, saying only that US authorities would be assisting the investigation at the request of the UAE which has called the incidents "deliberate "

Describing Pompeo's talks with his European counterparts, Hook said they had discussed "what seemed to be attacks on commercial vessels."

Underscoring the international concern, German said he used his one-on-one with Pompeo to stress that "we are concerned about the development and the tensions in the region, that we do not want there to be a military escalation".

British called for "a period of calm".

"We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended on either side but ends with some kind of conflict," he said as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in

And in New York, the called on all sides to "exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace." Saudi said the kingdom's two tankers suffered "significant damage" but there were no casualties or any

The Andrea Victory's managers, Thome Group, said the had a hole in the hull area "after being struck by an unknown object on the waterline".

The crew were unharmed and the ship was in no danger of sinking, it said.

is the only located on the Arabian Sea coast, bypassing the Strait of Hormuz, through which most Gulf pass.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait in case of a military confrontation with the United States.

"If, and it's an 'IF', there really has been a deliberate attempt to damage these oil tankers, then it's possibly a warning from Iran about the consequences of anybody taking military action against Iranian targets anywhere in the region," said analyst

rose on world markets on Monday but stocks fell.

The spike in tensions came after Tehran said Wednesday it had stopped respecting limits on its nuclear activities agreed under a 2015 deal that has since been abandoned by

Iranian called the incidents "alarming and regrettable".

He "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", a statement said.

Almost all the of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, and Iran itself, at least 15 million barrels per day, are shipped through the

Karen Young, a resident scholar at the Washington-based think tank, said the incidents were "clearly... more than a one off attack, but something more coordinated." "Tensions are high and have been escalated by the US as well. We have to be wary of tit for tat provocations, and those that may be misinterpreted or even false flag actions," she told AFP.

The six-nation - which includes and the UAE - condemned the incident while denounced "criminal acts".

Shiite-majority Iran rivals Sunni-ruled for influence in the Middle East, with the two taking opposing sides in multiple regional conflicts including in

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 14 2019. 09:31 IST