Iran denies tanker attacks as tensions soar

The crude oil tanker Front Altair on fire in the Gulf of Oman 13 June 2019

Tankers on fire in Gulf of Oman after suspected attack

U.S. President Donald Trump blamed Iran on Friday for attacks on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Gulf despite Tehran's denials, stoking fears of a confrontation in the vital oil shipping route.

Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge render aid to the crew of the Kokuka Courageous, one of two oil tankers suspected to have been attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.

Abe is believed to have requested the releases during his talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Thursday, the source said.

But the reality is the tough USA position against Iran is hurting the country's economy.

"Over the last two years. using its economic, financial and military resources (it) has taken an aggressive approach", he said.

Earlier this week, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Abe's trip was meant to help de-escalate tensions in the Mideast - but not specifically mediate between Tehran and Washington.

While both sides have said they're not looking for war, events have taken on a momentum of their own with US and Iranian forces bolstering their military presence.

Iranian forces told a ship that had rescued sailors from the Altair "to turn the crew over to the Iranian (fast inshore attack craft)". The U.S. blamed Iran for the attack, while the United Nations said a state actor-but did not name which-was likely behind the sabotage.

"The crew told us something came flying at the ship, and they found a hole", Mr Katada said.

"The US and the global community, stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation".

And though details of what happened were still scarce, the incidents came amid heightened frictions between the United States and Iran.

Khamenei said that he "does not trust America" and he does not consider the USA president "worthy" of a message or reply from Iran.

The black-and-white video, as well as still photographs the USA military released, appeared to show the limpet mine on the Kokuka Courageous. It also sent four nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to Qatar and has beefed up its defences in the region by deploying more Patriot air defence systems.

He called the attacks "deeply worrying" and said Britain would make its own assessment of the incident in the coming days. The US Navy has posted video footage showing the apparent removal of the limpet mine. Defense officials at the Pentagon said they had credible intelligence that Iran and its proxies are planning to attack American forces in Iraq.

An oil tanker is seen after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman, in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran, June 13, 2019.

Iran's mission to the United Nations late on June 13 said it "categorically rejects the USA unfounded claim" that it was involved in the latest attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

They ramped up again early last month when Trump placed even more sanctions on the embattled nation - and bolstered USA forces in the region. They said there is no timeline for any decisions.

In a follow-up Twitter post, Zarif said, "I warned of exactly this scenario a few months ago, not because I'm clairvoyant, but because I recognize where the #B_Team is coming from". She said tanker warfare in the Persian Gulf has historically been a problem, and she wouldn't be opposed to the US having a more visible presence in the region.

"Iran did do it", he said of the attack, in remarks Friday morning to "Fox & Friends".

Pompeo said there was strong evidence of Iran's culpability "based on the intelligence, the weapons used, the level expertise needed to execute the operation" and the U.S. assumption that only Iran in the region has the ability to undertake such an operation.

The U.S. charge of Iranian noncompliance with the JCPOA comes days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States is "prepared to engage in a conversation with no pre-conditions" with Iran.

Tehran has said the United States and its regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were "warmongering" by making accusations against Iran. At the time, the Taliban claimed credit for the attack, with no public word of Iranian involvement.

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