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Bahrain calls pipeline blast ‘terrorist’ sabotage, links it to Iran

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Bahrain said the explosion which caused a fire at its main oil pipeline on Friday was caused by “terrorist” sabotage, linking the unprecedented attack to its arch-foe Iran, which denies any role in the Gulf island kingdom’s unrest.

A key Western ally and host to the US Fifth Fleet, Sunni Muslim-ruled Bahrain has for years grappled with protests and sporadic violence coming from its Shi’ite majority.

“The incident was an act of sabotage and a dangerous act of terrorism aimed at harming the higher interests of the nation and the safety of the people,” the interior ministry said on its website.

“Terrorist acts witnessed by the country in the recent period are carried out through direct contacts and instructions from Iran,” the statement quoted Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa as saying.

In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi rejected the allegations as “false talk and childish accusations”, the ministry said on its website.

Bahraini authorities said they had brought under control the fire at the oil pipeline.

Saudi Arabia’s oil flows to Bahrain gradually resumed after a brief halt, Bahrain’s national oil company BAPCO said.

“Operations are under way to increase the refining output gradually, in cooperation with Aramco, upon completion of repairs soon,” BAPCO said in a statement late on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry said on Saturday that oil pumping to Bahrain had been suspended. It said it was stepping up security precautions at its own facilities.

Residents close to the incident near Buri village, some 15 kilometres (10 miles) from the capital Manama, were evacuated to a safe shelter, the statement added.

After authorities quashed Shi’ite-led “Arab Spring” protests in 2011, militants have launched deadly bombing and shooting attacks against security forces that Manama blames on Tehran.

Iran denies any role in Bahrain’s unrest.

Bahrain relies on the Abu Safa oilfield for the majority of its oil. It shares the field with Saudi Arabia. Oil to Bahrain is transported via the 55 km A-B pipeline which has a capacity of 230,000 barrels per day (bpd).

A new 350,000-bpd oil pipeline between the two countries will be completed next year and will serve the planned expansion of Bahrain’s refinery capacity.

Arabian Light crude oil will flow from Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq plant via the 115-km new pipeline, 73 km of which will run overland and the rest under the Gulf.

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