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Trump Blames Iran For Tanker Attacks As U.S. Focused On Building Coalition

A TV grab reportedly shows smoke billowing from a tanker attacked off the coast of Oman, June 13, 2019

The United States on Friday blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers at the entrance to the Persian Gulf and said it was seeking international consensus about the threat to shipping, despite Tehran denying involvement in the explosions at sea.

Thursday’s attacks raised fears of a confrontation in the vital oil shipping route at a time of increased tension between Iran and the United States.

“Iran did do it and you know they did it because you saw the boat,” U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News.

He was referring to a video released on Thursday by the U.S. military which said it showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were behind the blasts that struck the Norwegian-owned Front Altair and the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Iran said the video proved nothing and that it was being made into a scapegoat. “These accusations are alarming,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

Meanwhile, U.S. acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon reiterated that Washington is focused on building an international coalition against such attacks.

Shanahan, asked later whether he was considering sending more troops or military capabilities to the Middle East, Shanahan said: “As you know we’re always planning various contingencies.”

Last month, the United States sharply tightened sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, strangling the economy. In response Tehran has threatened to step up its nuclear activity and has said it could block the Strait of Hormuz, the main route out for Middle Eastern oil, if its own exports were halted.

Trump, has said any move to close the Strait of Hormuz would not last long but added that he was open to negotiations with Iran.

Reporting by Reuters