- Iran’s parliament speaker hints at US involvement
- UK warns of ‘great risk’ of escalation in Gulf
- Damaged tanker arrives at UAE
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused arch-rival Iran of attacks on oil tankers in a vital Gulf shipping channel, adding he “won’t hesitate” to tackle any threats to the kingdom, according to an interview published yesterday.
Two tankers were struck by explosions on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, the second attack in a month in the strategic shipping lane amid a tense US-Iran standoff, sparking fears of a regional conflagration and sending oil prices soaring.
“We do not want a war in the region... But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests,” Prince Mohammed told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, in his first public comments since the attacks.
“The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese prime minister as a guest in Tehran and responded to his (diplomatic) efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese.”
The prince also accused “Iran and its proxies” over May 12 attacks on four tankers anchored in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah.
Thursday’s attack on two tankers -- the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous that was carrying highly flammable methanol when it was rocked by explosions and the Norwegian-operated Front Altair -- came around the time Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iranian leaders in Tehran.
US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran “written all over it”, rejecting Tehran’s vehement denial.
Iran’s parliament speaker yesterday hinted that Washington could be behind the “suspicious” tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman to pile pressure on Tehran, official news agency IRNA 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 told MPs.
A damaged Japanese tanker arrived at a UAE anchorage site yesterday after it was rocked by explosions in Gulf waters.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday warned that there was a “great risk” of escalation in the Gulf, adding that Washington wanted the situation to end in negotiations.
Asked on BBC television about the possibility of escalation, he said: “This is the great risk of the situation that we are in.
“Both sides in this dispute think that the other side wouldn’t want a war. We are urging all sides to de-escalate.
“Having spoken to President Trump, I am absolutely clear that for America, they want this to end in negotiations.
“Let’s see Iran stop its destabilising activities in Lebanon through Hezbollah, in Yemen where they are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, on the Gulf as we have seen. That is the long-term solution.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said this week that there is no “shred of factual or circumstantial evidence” to blame Tehran for the attacks.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation.