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July 19, 2019
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Russia calls for restraint amid mounting Gulf tension

Russia has warned against “baseless accusations” and a “sober appraisal of evidence” after Iran and the United States traded barbs over the reported attacks on commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

The mysterious attack on two tankers last week has spiked tension between Washington and Tehran. Amid the rising fear of regional conflict, the attack sends up oil prices.

Meanwhile, Iran has accused US of staging the attack to hide the failure of its harsh sanctions on Tehran.

Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, claimed that the US may have staged the tanker attacks because of “the failure of its harsh sanctions” on Tehran, according to the official IRNA news agency.

The US has reimposed and tightened punishing sanctions on Iran in the year since it exited an international accord that offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme. US President Donald Trump said the “maximum pressure” campaign was aimed at forcing Iran to negotiate a new deal that also encompasses its ballistic missiles programme and addressed its support for regional armed groups.

But Larijani, speaking in the Iranian parliament, said it was “comical” that the US was urging Iran to turn to diplomacy after launching a “full-scale economic war” against the country.

Hours after Larijani’s remarks, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “unmistakable” that Iran was responsible for the suspected attacks. But Washington did not seek war with Tehran, he said.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Pompeo said there was other evidence beyond a video released by the US military, which it said purported to show Iranian soldiers removing an unexploded mine from one of the damaged tankers hours after the suspected attacks.

“The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence. The world will come to see much of it,” said Pompeo.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UK also backed the US assessment.

Earlier on Sunday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) told the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat that Iran deliberately attacked the ship and urged the international community to take a “decisive stand”.

“Such incidents can undermine the foundations of the world economy. That’s why it’s hardly possible to accept baseless accusations in this situation,” said Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin.

“We always urge a sober appraisal of the situation and to wait for more or less convincing evidence to appear,” he said on Russian television.

The United Nations, Germany, Qatar and others have called for an independent investigation to establish what happened.

Meanwhile, the two damaged tankers have arrived safely at locations off the UAE coast.