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    Saudi Arabia joins US-led patrol; Iran says attack a warning

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia said yesterday it joined a United States (US)-led coalition to secure the Mideast’s waterways amid threats from Iran after an attack targetting its crucial oil industry, while Iran’s president told the kingdom it should see the attack as a warning to end its years-long war in Yemen.

    The kingdom’s decision to enter the International Maritime Security Construct came ahead of a planned visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Saudi officials separately planned to share information about the weapons used to attack a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil processing plant last Saturday.

    Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed the attack. The US accuses Iran of being behind the assault, while Saudi Arabia already has said “Iranian weaponry” was used. Iran denies that, though it comes amid a summer of heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over its unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

    “Almost certainly it’s Iranian-backed,” Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom (UK) Prince Khalid bin Bandar told the BBC. “We are trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region.”

    The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a statement yesterday morning quoting an unnamed official saying the kingdom had joined the International Maritime Security Construct.

    Australia, Bahrain and the UK have already joined the mission.

    “The kingdom’s accession to this international alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter and counter threats to maritime navigation and global trade,” the news agency said.

    Commander Joshua Frey, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, declined to comment on the Saudi announcement, saying it “would be inappropriate to comment on the status of individual nations and the nature of any potential support”.

    The coalition aims to secure the broader Persian Gulf region. It includes surveillance of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of the world’s oil travels, and the Bab el-Mandeb, another narrow strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden off Yemen and East Africa. Smaller patrol boats and other craft will be available for rapid response. The plan also allows for nations to escort their own ships through the region.

    The US blames Iran for the apparent limpet mine explosions on four vessels in May and another two in June sailing in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz, something Iran denies being behind. Iran also seized a British-flagged oil tanker and another based in the United Arab Emirates.

    It’s unclear what role the kingdom will play in the coalition. Bahrain already serves at the headquarters of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

    In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told his Cabinet that Saudi Arabia should see the attack as a warning to end its war in Yemen, where it has fought the Houthi rebels since 2015 and sought to restore the internationally recognised government.

    Rouhani said Yemenis “did not hit hospitals, they did not hit schools or the Sanaa bazaar,” mentioning the coalition’s widely criticised airstrikes.

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