Government spokesman: Iran starts probe into oil tanker blast carefully, patiently

October 12, 2019

TEHRAN - Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Saturday that Tehran has started careful investigation into two explosions on its oil tanker in the Red Sea, refraining from any precipitancy.

The explosions, possibly caused by missile attacks, hit the oil tanker SABITI owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC).

According to a statement by the NITC, the explosions took place some 60 miles from the Saudi port city of Jeddah on Friday morning.

Rabiei underlined the probe is underway in detail without any hasty assessment. 

“There is a question. Whether those who accused Iran hastily, without presenting any reliable document, of conducting attack on vessels, disrupting free shipping in the Persian Gulf and involvement in raids on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil installations, are daring enough today to defend principles of free shipping in international waters once more? Do they condemn attack on the Iranian oil tanker SABITI?” Rabiei asked. 

Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said “piracy and evil acts in international waters… will not go unanswered.”
   
The explosions hit the vessel’s hull, causing heavy damages to the ship’s two main tanks, which resulted in an oil spill in the Red Sea. 

The spill was stopped, according to officials.

According to IRNA, the missiles hit the right side of the tanker’s hull, creating holes measuring 50-to-150 centimeters.

The NITC said the tanker was heading toward the Persian Gulf at a low speed.

Technical experts are currently investigating the cause of the explosion. They believe it was a "terrorist attack", unnamed sources told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA). 

Rabiei asks: Are those who accused Iran hastily of conducting attack on vessels and disrupting free shipping in the Persian Gulf and involved in raids on the Saudi Aramco daring enough to defend principles of free shipping in international waters once more? 

The NITC said the crew members were safe and none of them had been harmed in the explosions. 

The tanker is currently in a stable condition.

The NITC later dismissed the reports that the vessel had caught fire, according to SHANA, a news agency run by the Oil Ministry.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the attack as “a dangerous adventure”, warning that all the responsibilities fall on those behind it.

“The investigations conducted by the National Iranian Tanker Company indicate the Iranian tanker has sustained damages after being targeted twice, at half-hourly intervals, from a place near its shipping route in the east of the Red Sea,” Press TV quoted Mousavi as saying.

Expressing concern about the maritime pollution caused by the massive oil spill in the region after damages inflicted on the vessel, he said, “All the responsibilities for the act, including the extensive environmental pollution in the region, fall on those behind the dangerous adventure.”

He also noted that a probe was being conducted on the details of the attack and those behind it, and the results will be announced once it's done.

The NITC on Friday dismissed media reports that the oil tanker was hit by missiles fired from Saudi Arabia, IRNA reported.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing hoped the relevant parties would work together to uphold peace and stability in the region, Reuters reported.

The director of the Asian Bureau of the Russian Foreign Ministry also said on Friday that the necessary investigations about causes of the explosions are underway, suggesting it is necessary to refrain from immediate conclusions. 

“Investigations are underway and there is still no evidence for talking about the involvement of any side (in the incident),” Zamir Kabulov said, according to the Persian-language page of Sputnik.    

MJ/PA

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