Iran rejects USA accusation of involvement in tanker attacks

A damaged ANDREA VICTORY ship is seen off the Port of Fujairah United Arab Emirates

The operators of the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair offered no immediate explanation of what happened to their vessel.

One source said the blast on the Front Altair may have been caused by a magnetic mine.

The B-Team is a reference to hawkish United States national security adviser John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Iran's crude exports fell to about 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May from 2.5 million bpd in April 2018, draining Tehran's main source of revenues and hurting an economy already weakened by years of isolation.

In May, President Donald Trump tightened USA sanctions on Iran - mainly targeting its oil sector.

Iran's foreign ministry Friday dismissed as "baseless" United States accusations of being behind attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, adding Washington was trying to "sabotage diplomacy".

The United States military on Thursday released a video that it says shows an Iranian navy boat removing an unexploded mine attached to the hull of the Japanese-owned chemical tanker Kokura Courageous, one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman. These attacks are a threat to worldwide peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable escalation of tension by Iran. Washington immediately blamed Iran for the incident, sending US Navy destroyers to the area to provide assistance.

Iran denied any role in Thursday's apparent attacks, which have again rocked the Persian Gulf amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over the unravelling nuclear deal with world powers.

"The supreme leader's government then insulted Japan by attacking a Japanese-owned oil tanker just outside Iranian waters, threatening the lives of the entire crew, creating a maritime emergency", Pompeo added.

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Jonathan Cohen, acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Thursday that he echoed Pompeo's comments in a private meeting of the UN Security Council, describing the attack as "another example of Iran's destabilizing activities in the region".

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that U.S. actions pose a serious threat to stability in the Middle East.

Later that day, the United States military released a blurry video showing what they claimed were Iranian sailors removing an "unexploded limpet mine" from the 'Kokuka Courageous.' The poor quality of the video made it especially challenging to independently verify the claims.

"We are taking this extremely seriously and my message to Iran is that if they have been involved, it is a deeply unwise escalation which poses a real danger to the prospects of peace and stability in the region".

"We have said repeatedly that the region doesn't need further de-escalation it does need destabilization does need further tension and therefore we call for maximum restraint and to avoid provocations", Kocijančič said.

Most US allies in Europe and Asia disagree and say pulling out of the deal was a mistake that will empower hardliners in Iran and hurt the pragmatic faction that promised Iranians economic benefits in return for opening up to the world. Iran has said it would not start a conflict but would deliver a "crushing response" to any attack.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, however, told Abe on Thursday that it was meaningless to exchange message with Trump, according to Iranian state media.

Tehran and Washington have both said they have no interest in starting a war. "We believe that our problems will not be solved by negotiating with the USA, and no free nation would ever accept negotiations under pressure".

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