Oil facilities outside Riyadh attacked by drone: Saudis

A passerby walks past in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo Japan

The stations are connected to a pipeline that runs from the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea port of Yanbu.

Tensions in the Middle East appear to be pushing up the price of oil, with a barrel of Brent crude now costing $71.75, an increase of 1.9 per cent.

The attacks caused "significant damage to the structures of the two (Saudi) vessels", Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday, calling the incident "sabotage".

The US has already strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged Iranian threats. However, a report from Sky News Arabia, a satellite channel owned by an Abu Dhabi ruling family member, showed the allegedly targeted Saudi tanker Al Marzoqah afloat without any apparent damage.

A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis for four years in Yemen to try to restore the internationally recognized government, in a conflict widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Salam said Tuesday the strikes are a clear message to the Saudi Kingdom. Abdel-Salam also says: "Our goal is to respond to the crimes they are committing every day against the Yemeni people".

Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest oil exporter, said that supplies of crude and products continued "normally without interruption", the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the energy ministry. The official added that Saudi Aramco will assess the damage and fix the plants.

"We need to do a thorough investigation to understand what happened, why it happened, and then come up with reasonable responses short of war", Ambassador John Abizaid told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh in remarks published on Tuesday.

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This is not the first time the Houthis have used drones.

Iran's supreme leader claims that enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels would not be a hard task for the country - the latest threats from Tehran as tensions roil the region amid the unraveling of the nuclear deal.

Iran has been accused by the United States and the United Nations of supplying ballistic missile technology and arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

However, an official familiar with American intelligence said that Iran was a leading candidate for having carried out the attacks but that the U.S. did not have conclusive proof to confirm this. Reports have stated that it would be economic suicide for Iran to continue to provoke the United States. "They know that it is not to their benefit".

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

Tensions escalate near the Strait of Hormuz after what the UAE called "sabotage attacks" on four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers.

Few details have been released about the incident, which is said to have taken place at about 06:00 (02:00 GMT) on Sunday within UAE territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the emirate of Fujairah.

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