Riyadh denies accounts of pipeline blast

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 2 (UPI) — Reports of an oil pipeline explosion in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia are a ruse perpetrated by Iran, a Saudi official said.

Iran’s state-funded broadcaster Press TV said there had been an explosion on an oil pipeline. Those reports are attributed to a spike in oil prices overnight.

A Saudi industry official told the Financial Times on condition of anonymity the report was a hoax meant to stir panic in the oil market.

“This report is completely false,” the official said. “(There’s been) no incident whatsoever.”

A decision by Iran to halt crude oil exports to British and French markets, though largely symbolic, helped push oil prices to 9-month highs. The Financial Times reported oil prices soared overnight to the highest levels since July 2008 when crude oil prices topped $147 per barrel.

Iran, the Financial Times said, views Riyadh’s moves to offer more crude on the market as a form of economic warfare. Saudi Arabia had said it would supply more oil to some countries that have decided to lower imports of Iranian crude.

“In the oil market, they are competitors, and in the context of Iran’s nuclear crisis (Riyadh and Tehran) are regional rivals,” Michael Wittner, oil analyst at Societe Generale, told the Financial Times.

Spencer Cameron