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Saudi-led coalition responds to distress call from Iranian ship off Yemen amid tensions

The rescue followed a formal request for assistance from Iran's mission to the UN [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 June, 2019

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A crew member of an Iranian ship was rescued and taken for treatment in Saudi Arabia after a distress call was made by the vessel off Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said it evacuated a crew member of an Iranian ship off the Red Sea port of Hodeida on Tuesday for medical reasons, amid simmering regional tensions.

The crew member was airlifted for treatment in a military hospital in the southern Saudi city of Jizan, coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki was quoted as saying by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Malki said the rescue happened after the kingdom received a distress call from the "suspicious" Iranian vessel "Safiz", adding that it also received a formal request for assistance from Iran's mission to the United Nations.

There was no immediate comment from Tehran, which Riyadh accuses of providing military support to Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Maliki last week alleged "Safiz" was supplying the Houthis with naval mines, a growing menace in Yemen's four-year conflict.

The reported rescue comes after sabotage attacks damaged four vessels, two of them Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE and twin Yemeni rebel drone attacks shut down a key Saudi oil pipeline.

The incidents prompted Saudi Arabia to convene three crisis summits last week, which sought to rally support among leaders of Arab and other Islamic states against Iran.

Tehran has strongly denied involvement in the attacks on oil infrastructure.

Last month, an Iranian tanker was forced to seek repairs at a Saudi port after suffering "engine failure and loss of control", the Iranian oil ministry said, in a rare docking in the regional foe.

The staunch rivals have had no diplomatic relations since Riyadh broke off ties in 2016 after protesters angry at its execution of a top Shia cleric torched its diplomatic missions in Iran.

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