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Saudi Arabia says its oil pipeline was hit by drones

AP  |  Dubai 

An pipeline that runs across was hit Tuesday by drones, the Saudi minister said, as regional tensions flared just days after what the kingdom called an attack on two of its tankers near the

While both US and Iran's Ayatollah said they were not planning for conflict, the volatility was felt in markets with benchmark Brent crude trading over USD 71 a barrel, up more than USD 1 on the day.

The pipeline that runs from the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province to a port was shut down, but Saudi Minister vowed that the production and export of Saudi oil would not be interrupted.

The Houthis, who are at war with Saudi Arabia, said earlier Tuesday they launched seven drones targeting vital Saudi installations, without elaborating.

They later claimed responsibility for the pipeline attack in comments broadcast by military

In a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, called the pipeline attack "cowardly," saying recent acts of sabotage against the kingdom were targeting not only but also the safety of the world's supply and global economy.

The attacks demonstrated the increased risks in a region vital to global amid heightened tensions following the Trump administration's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between and world powers, and the subsequent re-imposition of US sanctions to cripple the Iranian economy.

has since said it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels by July 7 if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

The Saudis did not immediately assign blame for the drone assaults, which targeted two oil pumping stations west of the capital supplying the pipeline that runs from the east of to the on its western coast.

Still, al-Falih in his statement named Yemeni rebel Houthis as a group that must be internationally confronted and accused them of being backed by Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival.

Saudi Arabia has been at war with the Houthis and their allies in since March 2015, targeting the Iranian-allied rebels with near daily airstrikes.

"This is a message to Saudi Arabia: Stop your aggression," told

"Our goal is to respond to the crimes they are committing everyday against the Yemeni people."

Saudi Aramco, the company, said that as a precaution, it temporarily shut down the Pipeline and contained a fire, which caused minor damage to one pumping station.

It added that Saudi Aramco's were not affected.

Saudi Arabia said the two petroleum pumping stations that were struck by drones are located in the greater region of Riyadh, home to the landlocked capital.

The stations, targeted around the same time early Tuesday, are located in al-Duadmi and Afif, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west and 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of city, respectively.

Saudi Arabia built its pipeline in the 1980s amid fears that the Iran-war would cut off shipping through the

The 1,200-kilometer (746-mile) pipeline is actually two pipes that have a total capacity of 4.8 million barrels of a day, according to the

The two oil pumping stations are over 800 kilometers (500 miles) from Yemen's northern border with the kingdom.

The drone strikes reflect how the Houthis have tried to expand their capabilities during the four-year war.

The rebels have targeted with missiles and used drones to disrupt air traffic at Saudi airports near the border.

has been accused by the US and the UN of supplying and arms to the Houthis, which denies.

In Washington, Trump told reporters he would "absolutely" be willing to send troops to the Middle East, but that he's not planned for that and hopefully won't have to plan for that.

While Trump dismissed a report in that the is reviewing military plans against Iran that could result in sending 120,000 US troops to the if Iran attacks American forces or steps up work on nuclear weapons, he said if the US was going to get into a military conflict with Iran, "we'd send a hell of a lot more" troops.

Khamenei, Iran's who has final say on all state matters, was quoted by state TV as telling senior officials that his country won't negotiate with the United States, calling such talks "poison."

But he also said, "Neither we, nor them is seeking war.

They know that it is not to their benefit."

At a Tuesday evening gathering, he reportedly added: "This is not a military confrontation, because no war is going to happen."

recently deployed an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and bombers to the to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from

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

Meanwhile, the details around alleged acts of sabotage to four oil tankers, including two belonging to Saudi Arabia, off the coast of the remain unclear.

obtained Tuesday by the AP showed no visible damage to the vessels, and Gulf officials have refused to say who they suspected was responsible.

The MT Andrea Victory, one of the alleged targets, sustained a hole in its hull just above its waterline from "an unknown object," its owner Thome Ship Management said in a statement.

Images of the Norwegian ship, which the company said was "not in any danger of sinking," showed damage similar to what the firm described.

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

First Published: Wed, May 15 2019. 14:36 IST