Norway FM: Too early to conclude who's behind attacks
Russia warns against ‘hasty conclusions’
The leader of Britain’s main opposition party questioned whether the government had evidence to back up its accusations that Iran was behind attacks on oil tankers in the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and warned against escalating tensions.
Britain on Friday joined the United States in blaming Iran for attacks on two tankers, raising fears of a broader military confrontation in a vital passageway for the world’s oil industry.
Iran has denied any involvement.
“Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter late on Friday.
Corbyn urged Britain to “act to ease tensions” in the Persian Gulf, “not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.”
He was referring to Washington’s withdrawal from a 2015 pact to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.
British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, who is one of the leading candidates to succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May after she announced she would step down, described Corbyn’s comments as “pathetic and predictable.”
The UK Foreign Office said it was "almost certain" that a branch of the Iranian military – the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps – attacked the two tankers, adding that "no other state or non-state actor could plausibly have been responsible."
On Friday, the United States released video footage they say shows Iranian special forces removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers.
The Japanese owner of the Kokuka Courageous, one of two oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, said Friday that sailors on board saw "flying objects" just before it was hit, suggesting the vessel wasn't damaged by mines.
The Norwegian-owned Front Altair ethanol tanker was hit by three explosions, according to the Norwegian Maritime Authority.
“Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat,” US President Donald Trump told Fox News on Friday.
Iran said the video proved nothing and that it was being made into a scapegoat. “These accusations are alarming,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said.
The United States has also accused Iran over May 12 attacks on four tankers anchored in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah.
China, the European Union and others have called for restraint from all sides. In a notable signal that close US allies are wary of Washington’s position, Germany said the US video was not enough to apportion blame for Thursday’s attack.
“The video is not enough. We can understand what is being shown, sure, but to make a final assessment, this is not enough for me,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Friday.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide also said that it's too early to pin down and conclude who's behind the attacks.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation of the attacks.
Nathalie Tocci, a senior adviser to European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, also rejected the US allegations, saying, “Before we blame someone, we need credible evidence.
“Iranians are deeply rational actors. And for Iran to have attacked a Japanese ship when the Japanese prime minister was in Tehran is not an especially rational thing to do.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Thursday that the US had "immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence."
He accused Washington of seeking to "sabotage diplomacy" as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Iran.
Russia warned against jumping to conclusions about the tanker attacks and called for a thorough international investigation.
“We consider it necessary to refrain from hasty conclusions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
“We are concerned by tensions in the Gulf of Oman,” it said, urging all parties to show restraint.
Reuters, Press TV, BBC and AFP contributed to this report.