The US military on Friday released a video it said shows Iran's Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting the Islamic Republic sought to remove evidence of its involvement from the scene. Tehran has denied all the charges.
In New York, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guteress strongly condemned the attacks, warning that the world can not afford "a major confrontation in the Gulf region".
Yutaka Katada, the president of the Japanese company operating the Kokuka Courageous tanker, which was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman damaging its hull, has refuted the USA version of events in comments to the Japanese media, saying that the ship's crew saw a flying object ahead of the blast.
The attacks - on one Norwegian-operated and one Japanese-owned ship - were just the latest assaults on the region's energy infrastructure, which have been widely blamed on Iran or Tehran-backed militia groups.
Iran rejects the USA accusations.
It is notable that tankers carrying Iranian cargoes, or tankers heading to Europe, seem to have been immune from such attacks.
US Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesperson for his country's US Military's Central Command, said that the images showed the IRGC removing an "unexploded limpet mine" from the Japanese oil tanker Kokuka Courageous. The U.S. military has said "a war with Iran is not in our strategic interest".
Reuters came out with the story quoting the United States military that doesn't prefer opening up new conflict in the Middle East but might not refrain from securing the national interest.
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Yutaka Katada, the president of the attacked ship's operator, Kokuka Sangyo, appeared to dispute the idea that the object was a mine.
His statements come hours after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said London has "no reason not to believe the American assessment" that the M/T Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-flagged M/T Altair were attacked by Iranian forces.
The two oil tankers were attacked at dawn on Thursday about 40 kilometres (25 miles) off the southern coast of Iran.
The Japanese-owned tanker, abandoned by its crew, was being towed to a port in the United Arab Emirates on June 14, after a Dutch firm said it had been appointed to salvage the ships.
The US is sending another destroyer, the USS Mason, to the region to help with the rescue efforts. Joshua Frey, a 5th Fleet spokesman. Its forces have built up a formidable flotilla of small, high-speed, hard-to-detect attack craft armed with mines, missiles, torpedoes and drones. The impact happened above the water line so there was no damage to goods and fuel, and it is unlikely that the ship would sink, Katada said. The explosions from the mines were created to disable ships, not to sink them.
However on Thursday, Pompeo listed a number of accusations against Iran, . calling it a "campaign of escalating tension".
Two oil tankers were attacked on Thursday and left adrift in the Gulf of Oman. He didn't elaborate and took no questions.
The U.N. Security Council held closed consultations on the tanker incidents late Thursday at the request of the USA but took no action.
"It is Iran's modus operandi to use limpet mines and to show the United States that they have opportunities to attack the flow of oil in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz - but at the same time they are not attacking directly". Now, Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels if European nations don't offer it new terms to the deal by July 7. Some analysts are speculating that Donald Trump's renewed sanctions against Iran are beginning to bite.
The prospects of a conflict have heightened since the administration tightened its sanctions on Iranian oil exports in early May, following Trump's decision a year ago to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.