US ambassador to Saudi Arabia urges response 'short of war' to Gulf tanker attacks

The UAE is still investigating the attack on the four vessels off of Fujairah coast

FILE PHOTO: Retired four-star Army General John Abizaid testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing to be U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
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The US ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Washington should take what he called "reasonable responses short of war" on Tuesday after it had determined who was behind attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE.

Four commercial vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers, were sabotaged on Sunday near Fujairah, one of the seven emirates of the UAE and a bunkering hub just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

UAE authorities did not say who was behind the attack.

"We need to do a thorough investigation to understand what happened, why it happened, and then come up with reasonable responses short of war," Ambassador John Abizaid told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh in remarks published on Tuesday.

"It's not in our interest, it's not in Saudi Arabia’s interest to have a conflict," Mr Abizaid said.=

Spain said on Tuesday it had temporarily withdrawn a frigate from a US-led combat group in the Gulf in a possible sign of diplomatic differences between Europe and Washington over Iran.

The Spanish Defence Ministry did not give reasons for the pullout of the 215-sailor Mendez Nunez from the group led by US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. But acting defense minister Margarita Robles was to explain the motives later on Tuesday at a news conference in Brussels, a spokesman said.

Distancing Tehran from the incident, Iran's foreign ministry called it "worrisome and dreadful". Iran has called for an investigation into what it called an "alarming" incident.

Iran is embroiled in a war of words with the United States over sanctions and the US military presence in the region.

Washington has increased sanctions on Tehran, saying it wants to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero, after quitting the 2015 nuclear pact between Iran and global powers last year.

The US Maritime Administration said last week that Iran could target US commercial ships including oil tankers sailing through Middle East waterways. Tehran has called the US military presence "a target" rather than a threat.