Tuesday, 18 June, 2019

Iran denies tankers attack, terms USA accusations 'baseless' as tensions soar

Two oil tankers damaged in Gulf 'attacks' | News Mike Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman
Russell Knight | 14 June, 2019, 11:41

The US military has released a video which it says shows Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of an oil tanker damaged in an attack in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

Other Iranian small boats have remained near the stricken oil tanker since the attack early Thursday, the official added.

The master and crew abandoned ship and were quickly rescued from a lifeboat by the nearby vessel Coastal Ace.

The attacks were the second in a month near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies.

The United States has called for the UN Security Council to confront a "clear threat" posed by Tehran, after Washington said Iran was behind an attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Khamenei told Abe on Thursday that it was pointless to reply to a message he had brought to Tehran from Trump.

Two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz suffered suspected attacks on Thursday.

Tensions between Iran and the United States, along with its allies including Saudi Arabia, have risen since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a deal past year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump said he appreciated the visit by Abe to Iran but that he believed it is "too soon to even think about" the United States making a deal with Tehran. Abe, whose country was a big importer of Iranian oil until Trump ratcheted up sanctions, urged all sides not to let tensions increase. The Bahrain-based U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet said it had assisted the two tankers after receiving distress calls.

"Obviously, accusing Iran for such a suspicious and unfortunate incident is the simplest and the most convenient way for Pompeo and other U.S. officials".

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Iran is locked in a unsafe standoff with America after Washington imposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran in a bid to force the renegotiation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and curb interventions in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

These showed that it was "highly likely" that four Limpet mines, which are magnetically attached to a ship's hull, were used in the attacks, placed by trained divers deployed from fast boats.

It said the ship was afloat and the crew safe with one minor injury reported. "Kokuka Courageous is adrift without any crew on board", the source said.

Just 45 minutes earlier, and a few miles to the east, the tanker Kokuka Courageous was hit with two explosions three hours apart. The Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair vessel, owned by Norway's Frontline, was sailing from the United Arab Emirates to Taiwan with petrochemical feedstock.

Frontline said its vessel was on fire but afloat, denying a report by the Iranian news agency IRNA that the vessel had sunk.

Iran, which has distanced itself from the previous attacks, has said it would not be cowed by what it called psychological warfare.

Iranian search and rescue teams picked up 44 sailors from the two damaged tankers and took them to the Iranian port of Jask, Iran's IRNA reported.

The episode came a day after Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at a Saudi airport, wounding 26 people.

Iran itself has come out swinging in response to the claims, rejecting assertions they were behind the events on Thursday and similar attacks last month against four tankers on the same waterway.

"That the U.S. immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran-w/o a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence-only makes it abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy-including by [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe]-and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran", Zarif wrote on Twitter. But Ayatollah Khamenei dismissed the notion of talks saying in a series of tweets "I do not consider Trump as a person worth exchanging any message with and I have no answer for him, nor will I respond to him in the future".

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