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Source: Al-Jazeera

Dec 25, 2023

Iran dismisses US accusations of tanker attack off India

The US accusations are meant to ‘distract’ from Washington’s complicity in Israel’s ‘crimes in Gaza’, Iran’s FM says

Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed accusations of the United States that Tehran struck a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean, as tension rises globally over threats to maritime shipping.

A spokesperson for the ministry dismissed the accusation out of hand at a news conference on Monday. He asserted that the US claim that an Iran-launched drone had hit a Japanese-owned tanker as it sailed near India was false.

Global trade has been hit hard as Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched a flurry of attacks on ships in the Red Sea. The Houthis say the campaign, targeting what they say are Israeli-linked vessels, is intended to force Israel to halt its bombardment of Gaza.

“We declare these claims as completely rejected and worthless,” said Nasser Kanaani when asked about the US accusation.

“Such claims are aimed at projecting, distracting public attention, and covering up for the full support of the American government for the crimes of the Zionist regime [Israel] in Gaza,” he added.

Broader security threat

The attack on Saturday hit the MV Chem Pluto, a Japanese-owned tanker travelling 200 nautical miles (370km) off the coast of India, according to the US Pentagon.

The tanker was “Israel-affiliated” and had been on its way from Saudi Arabia to India, reported maritime security firm Ambrey.

Amid the recent spate of maritime assaults, it is the first that the US has sought to directly pin on Iran. It is also the first on a vessel outside the Red Sea.

The US, which is leading a global task force to counter the Houthi threat, has repeatedly accused Iran of being “deeply involved”.

However, Iran insists that it is not coordinating with the Houthis and plays no role in the attacks.

“The resistance [Houthis] has its own tools … and acts in accordance with its own decisions and capabilities,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri told the Mehr news agency on Saturday.

“The fact that certain powers, such as the Americans and the Israelis, suffer strikes from the resistance movement … should in no way call into question the reality of the strength of the resistance in the region,” he added.

Amid the tension, Iran’s navy has taken delivery of long-range cruise missiles as well as reconnaissance helicopters, according to the country’s state media.

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