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Saudi prince accuses rival Iran of oil tanker attacks

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in remarks published Sunday that the kingdom will not hesitate to confront Iranian threats to its security. He joined the U.S. in accusing its bitter rival Iran of being behind the attacks on two oil tankers traveling near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital trade route for Arabian energy exports.

Tensions in the Persian Gulf have escalated since the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group and other military assets to the region in what it says is defensive posturing against alleged Iranian threats.

The U.S. alleges Iran used limpet mines to target the tankers on June 13, pointing to black-and-white footage it captured that American officials describe as an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel removing an unexploded mine from the Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous.

The Japanese tanker’s crewmembers appeared to contradict the assertion that mines were used. They described “flying objects” as having targeted the vessel.

In his first public comments regarding the attacks, the powerful Saudi prince, who is also defense minister and oversees all major levers of power in the country, said the incident “confirms the importance of our demands of the international community to take a decisive stance” against Iran’s behavior.

“The kingdom does not seek war in the region,” the prince said, speaking with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. “But we will not hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, sovereignty and vital interests.”

The prince claimed Iran had planned the attack’s timing to undercut the Japanese prime minister’s diplomatic efforts, during his visit to Tehran last week, to reduce regional tensions.

He did not offer any evidence to back up the allegation.

“The problem is in Tehran and not anywhere else,” he added.

Prince Mohammed touted U.S.-Saudi relations as “essential to achieving regional security and stability.”

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated the U.S. official position. He claimed that intelligence officials have “lots of data, lots of evidence” tying Iran to the attacks, though he did not provide any specifics. He called the alleged shipping attacks “an international challenge, important to the entire globe.”

He said Trump was following an “economic pressure campaign” against Iran but “we do not want war.” He added that the “unambiguous” object of U.S. actions was that Iran would not get nuclear weapons.

Iran rejects accusations it was responsible for the attacks.

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