UN Chief Urges Independent Inquiry Into Oil Tanker Attacks


UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday pressed for an investigation to establish those responsible for a spate of suspected attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf that has raised fears of war.

After the United States accused Iran of carrying out the attacks and Tehran rejected the accusations, the UN chief suggested that an independent entity could step in to verify the facts.

“It’s very important to know the truth. It’s very important that responsibilities are clarified,” Guterres told reporters.

“Obviously that can only be done if there is an independent entity that verifies those facts,” he said.

Guterres however said that he did not have the authority to establish such an inquiry, adding that this was the purview of the Security Council.

The UN’s political chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, discussed the Gulf crisis with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Bishkek, the UN spokesman said.

The Japanese- and Norwegian-owned oil tankers were struck by explosions in the early daylight hours Thursday after passing through the Strait of Hormuz some 25 nautical miles off Iran’s southern coast.

The US Central Command has released footage that purports to show the crew of an Iranian patrol boat removing an object from the hull of the Japanese tanker.

Guterres spoke to reporters after meeting with Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who urged Iran to “be careful, reverse course, because you are pushing everybody towards a confrontation where no one will be safe.”

Iraq pushes US for ‘calm’ after Gulf tanker attacks

Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi pushed for “calm” in a Friday phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as tensions spiked between Washington and Tehran over tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

The call came after US President Donald Trump accused Iran of being behind Thursday’s attacks on two oil tankers, the latest episode of worsening ties between Baghdad’s two closest allies.

According to Abdel Mahdi’s office, Pompeo phoned the Iraqi prime minister and discussed “the crisis between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 

Abdel Mahdi told Washington’s top diplomat that Iraq was “striving for calm.” 

The prime minister has suggested Iraq as a potential mediator between the United States and Iran, but his offers have borne little fruit.

Thursday’s twin attacks on two vessels after they passed through the Strait of Hormuz — which Trump said had Iran “written all over it” — have raised fears of conflict in the strategically vital waterway.

Iran has denied involvement and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the US of seeking to “sabotage diplomacy”.

Iraq condemned the attacks but did not accuse any country of perpetrating them.

Abdel Mahdi earlier this week warned of the dangers of war.

“Iran isn’t weak, and neither is the US. All sides know that war will cost a lot. No one wants war, but does that mean we have peace? No,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Baghdad has strong military and diplomatic ties to the US but it is also very close to Tehran, one of Iraq’s top trade partners with sway over many Shiite armed units.

Iraq has thus been caught in the throes of the tug-of-war between 

Washington and Tehran since Trump last year withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed tough sanctions.

Baghdad secured waivers from Washington to keep importing Iranian gas and electricity for its crippled power sector, but those exemptions will end in less than a week with no indication of whether the US has granted another extension.   

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