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Saudis Warn of Retaliation If Iran Continues to Intrude on Oil Facilities

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LONDON - Saudi Arabia has reportedly warned it will retaliate if Iran continues to intrude on the airspace and waters around its offshore oil facilities in the Persian Gulf, and reserves the right to retaliate, as Tehran's firing at a U.S. drone last week raises concerns about an escalation in tensions in the region.

Saudi Arabia's envoy to the United Nations, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, has written to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about Iranian intrusions on its offshore oil facilities, the official Kuwait News Agency reported this week.

"The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reserves its right to take any action it deems fit in order to protect its waters and oil installations, and holds the Iranian authorities fully responsible for all possible consequences," he wrote, according to the report.

In the letter, the Saudi envoy said that in July an Iranian helicopter hovered several times over oil-rig sites in the Hasba field, and on another occasion two Iranian military launches intercepted and stopped a vessel belonging to a Saudi Aramco contractor in the Arabia field area.

He also said the Saudi Foreign ministry had already sent a letter to its Iranian counterpart demanding such incidents aren't repeated.

"Those two fields are Saudi Arabian offshore fields, as set forth in the agreement concluded between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and...Iran in 1968, in which the line demarcating the border between the two countries' offshore fields is delineated," Al-Mouallimi said in the letter, according to KUNA.

The Saudi mission at the UN and the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministries didn't return requests for comment. The UN press office didn't respond to calls.

The Saudi complaint comes after Iranian fighter planes shot at an unarmed American drone last week in an unprecedented air attack, according to a Pentagon official.

In recent months, the West has ratcheted up pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. The U.S. and European Union suspect the program has military objectives--an allegation that has been repeatedly denied by Tehran.

The incidents have raised concerns over military escalation in the key shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf. Iran has repeatedly threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's traded oil passes on a daily basis.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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