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Saudi Arabia Joins US-Led Naval Coalition To Protect Shipping


FILE - A Saudi warship is seen during ÒGulf Shield 1Ó exercise by members of Royal Saudi Navy, east of Saudi Arabia, October 9, 2016

In the wake of devastating attacks on its oil installations, Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday it is joining the US-led maritime coalition to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf region.

The United States launched the initiative to form a coalition after attacks on oil tankers in the region in May and June. However, not many countries have joined to effort. The United Kingdom, Australia and Bahrain are the only partners in the project.

The Saudi state-run news agency carried a statement quoting an unnamed official saying the kingdom had joined the International Maritime Security Construct.

"The kingdom's accession to this international alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter and counter threats to maritime navigation and global trade in order to ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy and contribute to maintain the international peace and security," the news agency said.

The attack on oil tankers was blamed on Iran, amid high tensions since May between Tehran and Washington and its regional allies.

The coalition plans to secure the broader Persian Gulf region, including surveillance of the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb, another narrow strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden off Yemen and East Africa. Smaller patrol boats and other craft will be available for rapid response.

The U.S. Navy has sent Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers to chokepoint positions, like either end of the Strait of Hormuz. There, they observe ship traffic and monitor for anything unusual as drones and other aircraft fly surveillance routes overhead.

It's unclear what role the kingdom will play in the coalition. Bahrain already serves as the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

With reporting by AP

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