Tensions soar over gulf ‘sabotaged’
Iran denies tanker attacks; video shows Iran removing mine; ‘Flying objects’ damaged Japanese tanker
DUBAI, June 14: Iran dismissed as "baseless" on Friday US accusations it executed twin attacks that left two tankers ablaze in the Gulf of Oman, raising fears of conflict in the strategically vital waterway.
China called for all sides to "resolve the conflict through dialogue" as oil prices jumped, while the European Union and the United Nations called for restraint.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Washington would defend its regional interests after US Central Command blamed Iranian forces for the attacks -- the second in a month in the strategic shipping lane.
CENTCOM released grainy black-and-white video it said showed crew members of an Iranian patrol boat removing an "unexploded limpet mine" from the hull of Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous.
No proxy group could be responsible, Pompeo said. But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the US had "immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence". He accused Washington of seeking to "sabotage diplomacy" as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Iran. One of the targeted vessels is owned by a Japanese company while the other was Norwegian-operated.
"It is a serious case which threatens our country's peace and stability," Japan's foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the straits where the incidents ocurred were "vital for our country's energy security".
With tensions spiralling between Iran and the United States, the European Union called for "maximum restraint" and UN chief Antonio Guterres warned against a Gulf confrontation.
But Iran labelled the attacks "suspicious," as its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rebuffed overtures by Abe to open talks with Trump.
The crew of the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous saw a "flying object" before a second blast on board, the operator's head said Friday.
"The crew members are saying that they were hit by a flying object. They saw it with their own eyes," Yutaka Katada, head of Kokuka Sangyo shipping company, told reporters. -AFP