Published: Mon, June 17, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Saudi crown prince accuses rival Iran of tanker attacks

Saudi crown prince accuses rival Iran of tanker attacks

Previously, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Iran of attacking the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, despite Tehran vehemently denying the accusations.

The attacks, which also hit the Norwegian tanker Front Altair, came after similar blasts in May struck four ships, including two Saudi oil tankers, off the UAE.

Attacks on Saudi Arabia by Iran-aligned Yemeni rebels have further fuelled tensions in the region.

Meanwhile, Yemen's Houthi movement launched fresh drone attacks targeting Saudi Arabia's Jizan and Abha airports, the group's Al-Masirah TV said on Saturday, adding the installations were out of service. "First inspections are under way and no hot spots have been identified following the fire", the vessel's owners said in a statement Sunday. The kingdom's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Saturday called on the worldwide community to take a "decisive stand" but said Riyadh does not want a war.

In an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Prince Mohammed said Iran disrespected the visit to Tehran by the Japanese prime minister last week and responded to his diplomatic efforts to reduce regional tensions by attacking the two tankers.

The explosions that damaged the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous occurred while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran trying to help ease rising tensions between the United States and Iran.

Asked whether Iran was behind the attacks on the tankers, Hunt told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: "We have done our own intelligence assessment and the phrase we used is nearly certain".

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous had "arrived safely at the designated anchorage", the vessel's Singapore-based BSM Management said in a statement on Sunday.

America has produced a video which it says shows Iranian forces in a small boat taking an unexploded mine off of one of the ships after the attacks.

It was "heading towards the Fujairah-Khor Fakkan area in the United Arab Emirates", the ports chief of Iran's southern province of Hormozgan told the semi-official news agency ISNA.

On Saturday, Associated Press journalists saw the crew members of Front Altair after their Iran Air flight from Bandar Abbas, Iran, landed at Dubai International Airport.

The UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday called on world powers "to secure worldwide navigation and access to energy".

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), 35 per cent of the world's seaborne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Doing so would disrupt oil tankers traveling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes.

The attacks on Thursday on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman sent crude prices soaring amid a tense standoff between Iran and the US.

The UK Foreign Office said it was "almost certain" that a branch of the Iranian military - the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - was responsible. "We remain hopeful in attaining a broader framework for cooperation with Iran", he said at a summit in Bulgaria.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week that there is no "shred of factual or circumstantial evidence" to blame Teheran for the attacks.

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