Emirates

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, an oil tanker approaches to the new Jetty during the launch of the new $650 million oil facility in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates said Sunday, May 12, 2019 that four commercial ships near Fujairah "were subjected to sabotage operations" after false reports circulated in Lebanese and Iranian media outlets saying there had been explosions at the Fujairah port. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates  (AP) — The United Arab Emirates said Sunday that four commercial ships off its eastern coast “were subjected to sabotage operations,” just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at a nearby Emirati port.

Emirati officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible. However, the reported incident comes as the U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran.

Tensions have risen in the year since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran’s economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.

The statement from the UAE’s Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country’s territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah. It said it was investigating the incident “in cooperation with local and international bodies.” It said there were “no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels” and “no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel.”

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, did not immediately offer comment on the incident. Emirati officials declined to elaborate while their investigation is ongoing.

Earlier Sunday, Lebanon’s pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting “Gulf sources,” falsely reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah’s port. State and semi-official media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved in the incident.

Fujairah’s port is located about 85 miles from the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all oil at sea is traded.

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