Tuesday, 17 September, 2019

Britain 'almost certain' Iran was behind tanker attacks: foreign minister Hunt

Persian Gulf Tensions Pompeo again blames Iran for tanker attacks but insists 'we don't want war'
Patty Aguilar | 17 June, 2019, 16:32

"What you should assume is we are going to guarantee freedom of navigation throughout the strait", he said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday".

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had said earlier that there was no reason not to believe the US intelligence assessment about the situation.

The United States and the Saudis blamed the attacks on Iran, which denies any involvement. The ship's crew were "safe and well", it added. The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was also struck, NPR's Tom Bowman reported, and early assessments suggested the ship was hit by an external explosion. Washington also blames Tehran for drone strikes on two oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia on May 14.

On Sunday Saudi Arabia joined the USA and United Kingdom in blaming Iran, with the country's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman saying Riyadh "won't hesitate" to tackle any threats.

This June 13, 2019, image released by the USA military's Central Command, shows damage and a suspected mine on the Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman near the coast of Iran.

Iran has dismissed the accusation.

On June 13 two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran.

Other Europeans have been skeptical, including Germany's Foreign Secretary Heiko Maas. Tehran has denied being involved and accused America of promoting an "Iranophobic" campaign against it.

The attacks seem to have pushed up tanker freight rates as shipowners are becoming more concerned about the safety in the region.

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A resolution still seems far off, with the two sides struggling to agree on several key points. There was at least one child among the fatalities, while three other minors were wounded.

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British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said London had concluded Teheran was "almost certainly" responsible for last Thursday's attacks, prompting Iran's foreign ministry on Saturday to summon British Ambassador Rob Macaire over Mr Hunt's "false remarks".

US President Donald Trump has said the operation had Iran "written all over it" - rejecting Tehran's vehement denial - and Washington's key Gulf ally Saudi Arabia has also lashed out against Tehran. Since then, the Trump administration has reimposed sanctions and and refused to renew waivers allowing other countries to import Iranian oil without incurring US sanctions, NPR's Bill Chappell has reported.

"The suspicious actions against the tankers... seem to complement the economic sanctions against Iran considering that (the US) has not achieved any results from them", Ali Larijani tells lawmakers.

Pompeo said the U.S.is dedicated to keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even as the United States withdrew from the 2015 worldwide pact - which aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions against it.

Senior military figures have lent their credence to the Pentagon video.

"When you look at the situation, a Norwegian ship, Japanese ship, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, 15 per cent of the world's oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz, so we obviously need to make contingency plans should the situation deteriorate but we also need to broaden our support for this global situation", he said.

"This is an worldwide challenge, important to the entire globe".

Bagheri's comments come as Iran has said it will break uranium enrichment limits imposed by the Iran Deal and amid tensions with the US.

"These past 40 days demonstrate the malign activity that puts Saudis at risk", Pompeo said.

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