updated 11/18/2007 2:41:35 PM ET 2007-11-18T19:41:35

An explosion and fire killed 28 people working on a natural gas pipeline in eastern Saudi Arabia, the Saudi national oil company said Sunday.

It said the cause of the fire was an accident during maintenance work and it did not expect a disruption in gas supplies/

“The fire broke out while contract workers were linking a new pipe” to the pipeline late Saturday, Aramco said. “The company is taking all necessary measures to guarantee the continuation of the normal gas output.”

It said 28 workers, including five Aramco employees, had died in the fire, which was put out early Sunday.

The company did not specify how many people had been injured in the blaze some 18 miles from its Hawiyah gas plant, or give the victims’ nationalities.

A Saudi oil ministry adviser said there was no link between the explosion and the OPEC summit being held in Riyadh, the capital. He said there was no question the fire was an accident, and that terrorism was ruled out.

“This is purely maintenance-related,” the adviser said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

An Aramco official contacted by phone by The Associated Press declined further comment.

Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest oil producer, located on the country’s east coast.

The Hawiyah plant produces 310,000 barrels of ethane and liquefied natural gas daily.

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