World

Saudi prince calls for stand on tankers

By AAP Newswire

Crew members from a Norwegian-owned oil tanker attacked in the Gulf of Oman have landed in Dubai after two days in Iran as the other tanker targeted in the assault limped into anchorage off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Both the mariners' recollection and the physical evidence remaining on the MT Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous, now off the coast of Fujairah, will play an important role in determining who the international community blames for Thursday's explosions on board the oil tankers.

Meanwhile Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is blaming Iran for the attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Sunday.

The crown prince charged that the Iranian regime attacked the ships, one of which was Japanese, during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit.

Salman urged the international community to take a "decisive stand".

The prince also said that his country does not want war. "But we won't hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests," he added.

Already, the US has blamed Iran for what it described as an attack with limpet mines on the two tankers, pointing to black-and-white footage it captured that American officials describe as Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from the Kokuka Courageous.

Tehran rejects the allegation, instead accusing the US of pursuing an "Iranophobic" campaign against it. However, Iran previously used mines against oil tankers in 1987 and 1988 in the "Tanker War," which saw the US Navy escort ships through the region - something American officials may consider doing again.

In a new allegation on Saturday, the US military accused Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops of trying but failing to shoot down a US drone to disrupt surveillance of the tankers during the attacks.

All this comes after four other oil tankers off Fujairah suffered similar attacks in recent weeks, and Iranian-allied rebels from Yemen have struck US ally Saudi Arabia with drones and missiles.

US President Donald Trump withdrew the US last year from the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran reached with world powers and recently imposed a series of sanctions now squeezing its beleaguered economy and cutting deeply into its oil exports. While Iran maintains it has nothing to do with the recent attacks, its leaders repeatedly have threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 per cent of the world's oil flows.

On Saturday, Associated Press journalists saw the crew members of Front Altair after their Iran Air flight from Bandar Abbas, Iran, landed at Dubai International Airport. Ten of its 23 mariners walked out to be greeted by officials who earlier could be heard saying the others would be catching connecting flights.

The officials repeatedly refused to identify themselves to journalists. They and the mariners declined to take questions.