Wednesday, 24 July, 2019

US envoy urges response 'short of war' to Gulf tankers attack

A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in London A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in Lond
Deanna Wagner | 15 May, 2019, 07:31

The Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, said the attack on the Saudi tankers took place at 6am local time (10:00 GMT) on Sunday and caused "significant damage to the structure of the two vessels".

A television station run by Yemen's Houthi group said on Tuesday the Iran-aligned movement had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations, without identifying the targets or time of the attacks.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency following the session, Minister of Media Turki Al-Shabanah said that the Council emphasized that the recent terror attacks targeted not only the Kingdom but also the safety of the world's energy supplies and the global economy. The company is working on restoring the pump station prior to resuming operations.

Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam tweeted that the attacks were "a response to the aggressors continuing to commit genocide" against Yemenis.

"We are capable of executing unique operations on a bigger and wider scale in the hearts of the enemy countries", they said.

Earlier this month, Trump's national security adviser John Bolton announced that the US would deploy the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to show "the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force".

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran have increased, Tehran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Oil prices have risen more than 30 percent this year, supported by supply concerns as the United States has imposed sanctions on both Iran and Venezuela.

The initial findings of a team of US military experts have revealed that Iran or Iranian-sponsored proxies were likely behind a sabotage attack on two Saudi oil tankers and two other vessels in the Gulf of Oman on Sunday.

"Iran might be doing all that it could do before having to negotiate USA terms, or before the U.S. targets Tehran..."

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In Tehran, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cautioned: "Neither we, nor them, is seeking war". America is deploying an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged, still-unspecified threats from Tehran.

US national security agencies said they believe proxies sympathetic to or working for Iran may have been responsible for the tanker attacks rather than Iranian forces themselves.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Cooperation Council on Sunday termed the attack on the four commercial vessels as "dangerous escalation (that) speaks of the evil intentions", reported CNN.

Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, called the incidents "deliberate sabotage". According to him, the attack "did not lead to any casualties or an oil spill but damaged the structures of the two vessels.".

Thome Ship Management, a Norwegian firm which manages the ship, said in a statement it had been "struck by an unknown object on the waterline".

The United Nations urged all sides to "exercise restraint for the sake of regional peace".

The pipeline is used to transport oil from fields near the Persian Gulf to a port on the Red Sea, without passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

It set a 60-day deadline for Europe to offer it a better deal before it would begin enriching uranium to higher levels that the West fears could allow it to obtain atomic bombs.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, dismissed the offer, saying there are no guarantees that the United States would stick to another nuclear agreement after Trump violated the first agreement almost one year ago.