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Saudi crown prince calls for 'decisive' stand against Iran after attacks

Dubai — Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman called for a "decisive" stand from the international community against Iran, which he blamed for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and facilities in the kingdom.

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In an interview with Saudi-owned Ashraq Al Awsat newspaper published on Sunday, the crown prince said the kingdom does not want a war in the region but "will not hesitate to deal with any threat to its people, sovereignty and vital interests."

Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih also called for a swift and decisive action towards "the threats to oil supplies, market stability, and the confidence of consumers," following the attacks on oil tankers in the region, according to a tweet from the Saudi oil ministry.

The comments from the Saudi crown prince and the oil minister come after two oil tankers were allegedly attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, pushing oil prices higher and raising fears about the security of energy supplies in the region. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the second in nearly a month when four tankers, two Saudi-owned, one UAE-flagged and another from Norway, were hit in the Gulf of Oman.

UN representatives from the UAE, Norway and Saudi Arabia have briefed the UN Security Council on the preliminary findings on their investigation into attacks on four tankers at Fujairah last month, suggesting an unnamed "state actor" was probably responsible. US National Security advisor John Bolton said that Iran "was almost certainly” behind the May attacks, an accusation denied by Iran, which called the allegations ludicrous.

US President Donald Trump and other senior US officials blamed Thursday's attacks on Iran. US officials released a video on Friday purportedly showing Iran's Revolutionary Guards removing a mine from one of the tankers damaged on Thursday. The veracity of the video has not been independently verified and Iran has denied the allegations.

"Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat," Trump told Fox News, calling Iran "a nation of terror."

Iranian Foreign minister Javad Zarif took to Twitter in reaction to US allegations, calling them "sabotage diplomacy."

Iranian officials have threatened to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the key transit for oil and gas exports of countries in the Persian Gulf, if its oil industry is affected by US sanctions, which were re-imposed last year after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran.

The US also did not renew in May waivers granted last year to eight countries importing Iranian crude as it seeks to bring down Tehran's oil exports to zero.

The war of words follows a series of intensified attacks on the kingdom in the last few weeks from the Houthi rebels in Yemen. These acts included a drone attack on an airport that left 26 people injured and another incident targeting a key oil pipeline linking the eastern oil-rich region to the Red Sea port of Yanbu in western Saudi Arabia.

Saudi oil production and exports were not affected by the attack on the 1,200 km east-west pipeline, Falih and Saudi Aramco said at the time. Saudi Arabia, the biggest OPEC member, produced 9.7 million b/d in May, a 120,000 b/d drop from April, according to an S&P Global Platts survey.

Falih said at a meeting of OPEC/non OPEC ministers last month that Saudi Arabia is expected to produce about 9.7-9.8 million b/d in June and that its July production will be in line with its quota of 10.31 million b/d.

Twenty-four OPEC and non-OPEC countries have been trimming collective output by 1.2 million b/d since January in a bid to lower oil supplies and prop up prices. But they have yet to agree on a date to hold a meeting in Vienna that will decide whether to extend these oil production cuts.

--Dania Saadi, dania.el.saadi@spglobal.com

--Edited by Claudia Carpenter, newsdesk@spglobal.com