Dubai: 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.
US 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 US, 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 US President Donald Trump. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the US a “serious threat to global stability” as he attended an international forum in Kyrgyzstan.
“Over the last two years... using its economic, financial and military resources (it) has taken an aggressive approach,” he said. The two vessels, which were 10 nautical miles apart en route to Asia, were struck by explosions in the early daylight hours Thursday after passing through the Strait of Hormuz some 25 nautical miles off Iran’s southern coast.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump on Friday doubled down in accusing Iran of executing explosions on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, saying the incident had Iran “written all over it.” However, as US-Iranian tensions soared, Trump dismissed previous threats by Tehran that in case of conflict it could block the Hormuz Strait —a narrow seaway vital to the world’s oil supplies.
“They’re not going to be closing it,” he said in an interview to Fox News TV.
Speaking hours after the US military released grainy footage it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an “unexploded limpet mine” from one of the tankers, Trump said “Iran did do it.”