October 4, 2016 / 5:35 PM / 3 years ago

Saudi Arabia says starts naval exercises in Gulf

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia began naval war games including live fire exercises on Tuesday in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil route, official media reported, a move that coincides with heightened tensions with regional rival Iran.

Warships, speedboats, air navy aircraft, Marine Corps and special security naval units took part, state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. Live ammunition was fired during activities.

The manoeuvres are aimed at testing combat readiness “in preparation for the protection of the marine interests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any possible aggression,” reported SPA quoting commander of the exercises, Rear Admiral Majed bin Hazza’a Al-Qahtani.

    The drill is also being conducted in the Sea of Oman, SPA reported.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia is concerned by the growing clout in the region of Shi’ite Iran, which has emerged from years of international economic sanctions following a deal over its nuclear programme signed by Tehran and world powers in 2015.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Muslim countries, backed by the United States, Britain and France, in a war in neighbouring Yemen. The campaign, aimed at restoring a government ousted by an Iran-allied militia, is part of a more assertive effort by Riyadh since last year to counter Iran’s influence.

Some 17 million barrels per day (bpd), or about 30 percent of all seaborne-traded oil, passed through the Strait of Hormuz in 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.   

Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh,; Editing by William Maclean and Richard Balmforth

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