UK blames Iran for Gulf of Oman tanker attacks
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The UK is “confident” that Iran is responsible for an attack on two oil tankers 25 in the Gulf of Oman.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Our own assessment leads us to conclude that responsibility for the attacks almost certainly lies with Iran.
“These latest attacks build on a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region.”
He added that Britain would use diplomatic channels to “de-escalate tensions.”
It came of day of frantic diplomacy and condemnation in which:
:: The US said a new video shows Iran trying to hide its involvement in the attack.
:: Iran countered that the US had no hard evidence.
:: It was claimed one of the tankers was being prevented from leaving harbour by the Iranian military.
:: US central command said it stood ready to defend its interests.
Footage released by the US military, claims to show Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the tankers.
Limpet mines are magnetic and attach to the hulls of a ship, disabling but not sinking them.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Iran of attacking the tankers, and has instructed the US ambassador to the UN to raise the issue before the security council.
Her said on Twitter that the attacks were a “threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable escalation of tension by Iran”.
But Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted that the US had “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence”.
A US official said Iranian military vessels were preventing tug boats from towing away the damaged Norwegian-owned Front Altair.
In another development, the company which owns the other tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, said crew spotted an Iranian naval ship nearby.
The tanker was attacked twice, first near the engine room, and then on the starboard side towards the back.
Mr Katada described claims of a mine attack as “false” because the damage was above the ship’s waterline.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “We are responsible for ensuring the security of the Strait and we have rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time.
“Obviously, accusing Iran for such a suspicious and unfortunate incident is the simplest and the most convenient way for (Mike) Pompeo and other US officials. These accusations are alarming.”
The tankers were hit in the Gulf of Oman, 25 miles from the Iranian coast in the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping route for the Gulf’s energy-rich countries.
Central command spokesman Captain Bill Urban said: “The US and the international community stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation.
“The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.”
The US already blames Iran or its proxies for a 12 May attack on four tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, as well as drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations two days later.