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Damaged tanker arrives at UAE anchorage

Damaged tanker arrives at UAE anchorage
The damaged Kokura Courageous at a UAE anchorage site.
Dubai, Jun 16 (AFP) | Publish Date: 6/16/2019 11:49:45 AM IST

 A damaged Japanese tanker arrived Sunday at a UAE anchorage site after it was rocked by explosions in Gulf waters as Saudi Arabia accused arch-rival Iran of being behind the attack.

The Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman on Thursday when it came under attack along with the Norwegian-operated Front Altair -- the second assault in a month in the strategic shipping lane.

US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran “written all over it” -- rejecting Tehran’s vehement denial -- and its key Gulf ally Saudi Arabia has also lashed out against Tehran. In his first public comments since the attacks, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday he “won’t hesitate” to tackle any threats to the oil-rich kingdom. “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,” he told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

“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 US military on Friday released grainy footage it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an “unexploded limpet mine” from one of the tankers.

“Kokuka Courageous has arrived safely at the designated anchorage at Sharjah,” the vessel’s Singapore-based BSM Ship Management said in a statement Sunday. The crew, who remained on board, were “safe and well”, it said.

A damage assessment and preparations for transferring the ship’s cargo would start “once the port authorities have completed their standard security checks and formalities”, it added. The other ship, the Front Altair, has left Iran’s territorial waters, multiple sources said Saturday.

It was “heading toward 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.

A spokeswoman for Frontline Management, the Norwegian company which owns the ship, said “all 23 crew members of the tanker departed Iran” and flew to Dubai on Saturday. The UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday called on world powers “to secure international navigation and access to energy”, a plea echoed by regional ally Saudi Arabia after the incident sent crude prices soaring. Thursday’s attacks took place southeast of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital corridor connecting the energy-rich states of the Middle East with markets in Asia, Europe, North America and elsewhere. 

Iran hints US could be behind ‘suspicious’ tanker attacks
TEHRAN, JUN 16 (AFP):  Iran’s parliament speaker hinted Sunday 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.
 He backed his claim by saying there had been a precedent “during World War II, when Americans targeted their own ships near Japan to create an excuse for hostility”.
 A non-belligerent state at the beginning of World War II, the US went to war after Japan’s surprise attack on the American Pearl Harbour base in Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941.
 A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked on Thursday and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman Washington accused Tehran of being behind the attacks, that took place at the same time that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran for talks aimed at defusing tensions between Iran and the United States.
 Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the US claim as “baseless” and said Washington had “immediately jumped to make allegations against 
Iran -- (without) a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence”.
 Iran has been locked in a bitter standoff with the United States since Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal in May last year.
 Washington has since reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions on Tehran -- targeting crucial parts of Iran’s economy, especially the banking and oil sectors --  and launched a military buildup in the Gulf. 
 

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