Gulf of Oman attacks: Japanese company and United States provide new evidence

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Pompeo also said the USA would defend its forces and interests in the Middle East but gave no details on any immediate plans.

The Associated Press is reporting that the operator of the Japanese ship, the Kokuka Courageous, one of the vessels attacked in the Gulf of Oman, says sailors on board saw "flying objects" just before the attack, suggesting the tanker wasn't damaged by mines.

After two tankers loaded with petroleum products were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, Iranian officials rejected U.S. claims that Tehran was behind the blasts.

Pompeo said there was strong evidence of Iran's culpability, after the US Navy said it had spotted an unexploded limpet mine stuck to the hull of one of the vessels.

Iran is locked in a risky standoff with America after Washington imposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran in a bid to force the renegotiation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and curb interventions in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

The UAE last week said initial findings of its investigation pointed to the likelihood that a "state actor" was behind the bombings, but did not specifically blame Iran.

"No proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication", he said Thursday.

Following up on claims by U.S. officials that Iran was behind the attacks on a pair of tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, Central Command released a video on Thursday night through the Associated Press, claiming the video showed Iran removing an unexploded explosive mine from the tanker.

Safe havens including Gold are on the bids as a recent tussle between the United States and Iran over 2 oil tankers' blast in the Gulf of Oman turns serious.

Mohammad Javad Zarif in an early Friday morning tweet said the fact that "the USA immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran - [without] a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence - only makes it abundantly clear that the #B_Team is moving to a #PlanB: Sabotage diplomacy...and cover up its #EconomicTerrorism against Iran".

Iran itself has come out swinging in response to the claims, rejecting assertions they were behind the events on Thursday and similar attacks last month against four tankers on the same waterway.

Iran has suspended its adherence to some obligations under the nuclear deal and Tehran has taken a strong stance with their Foreign Minister making provocative statements including telling the USA it "cannot expect to stay safe" after increasing sanctions.

"Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning", he wrote on Twitter. One of the officials claimed a United States military aircraft recorded the footage.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the facts should be established but warned against stoking conflict in the volatile Gulf. "If there is something the world can not afford, it is a major confrontation in the Gulf region".

An oil tanker is on fire in the sea of Oman, June 13, 2019. The giant vessel was hit twice, first near the engine room and then on its starboard side. A short time later, the Kokuka Courageous, loaded with methanol from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also called for help. Twenty-one mariners from one of the ships were taken aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer after having abandoned ship, while 23 mariners from the other vessel were reportedly taken to Iran.

The assaults on the tankers, some carrying merchandise bound for Japan, came on the day the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe met Iran's political leadership to see if a basis for US-Iran talks exists.

A Norwegian tanker was also damaged.

It was the second time in a month tankers have been attacked in the world's most important zone for oil supplies, amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran. "Whoever is behind the attacks is no friend of Iran".

Trump said he appreciated the visit by Abe to Iran but that he believed it is "too soon to even think about" the United States making a deal with Tehran.

In withdrawing from the deal a year ago, Trump pointed to the accord not limiting Iran's ballistic missile program and not addressing what American officials describe as Tehran's malign influence across the wider Middle East.

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