Iran Accuses Saudis of Searching for Oil in "Prohibited" Gulf Areas

LONDON - Iran Tuesday accused Saudi Arabia of searching for oil in what it called a "prohibited" offshore zone in response to Riyadh's earlier allegations that Tehran had violated its airspace.

The statements are likely to revive fears of a flare up between the Persian Gulf's arch-foes and coincide with the military escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has already stoked fears of a disruption to Middle-East oil supplies.

In remarks carried by Iran state news agency IRNA, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said "the violation was committed by Saudi companies."

"Apparently Saudi Arabia had taken measures for oil exploration activities in the prohibited border zone between the two countries," he said.

The Iranian official insisted he hoped the matter would be resolved peacefully.

But his remarks were made in response to reports last week that Saudi Arabia had warned it would retaliate if Iran continues to violate its airspace and waters around its offshore oil facilities in the Persian Gulf.

The official Kuwait News Agency reported at the time that Saudi Arabia's envoy to the United Nations, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, had written to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon about the intrusions on its offshore oil facilities.

The recent incidents had 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.


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