EghtesadOnline: Tehran on Friday launched an investigation into an attack on an Iranian tanker navigating the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia and said its perpetrators are to blame for the consequences.
"Those behind the attack are responsible for all the consequences of this dangerous adventure, including the serious environmental pollution," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement, ISNA reported.
Confirming earlier reports and citing the National Iranian Tanker Company, a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company, he said the Sabiti tanker was damaged on Friday after being struck twice in the span of half an hour from the east of the Red Sea near its crossing route.
Mousavi added that all crew members are safe and the situation of the oil vessel is stable, Financial Tribune reported.
Red Sea is a major global shipping route for oil and other trade, linking the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. Crude prices jumped on the news and industry sources said it could drive up already high shipping costs, according to Reuters.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the incident, which follows attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf in May and June as well as strikes on Saudi oil sites in September.
The United States, embroiled in a row with Tehran over its nuclear plans, has blamed Iran for those incidents. Tehran has denied having a role in any of the attacks since May.
Friday's incident is likely to ratchet up tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.
Series of 'Damaging Activities'
Mousavi said Iranian tankers have been targeted by "damaging activities" over the past several months in the Red Sea, which are being investigated. He did not elaborate.
He added that further details about the latest incident will be announced in due course and after the facts are established.
NITC, which owns the vessel, said in a statement the ship was hit by two explosions, "probably caused by missiles," at 5 a.m. and 5:20 a.m. local time 60 miles from the Saudi city of Jeddah, ISNA reported.
The company denied media reports that the tanker had been hit by a missile attack launched from Saudi soil. It also said the ship was leaking crude but noted that the ship did not catch fire after the blasts.
IRNA later reported that the oil leak from Sabiti was under control and had almost stopped.
The tanker set sail for Persian Gulf waters after the incident, IRNA said, citing NITC.
A spokesman for the US Navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet overseeing the Middle East said authorities there were "aware of reports of this incident" but declined to comment.
Asked about the Iran oil tanker explosions, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily press briefing that Beijing hopes the relevant parties would work together to uphold peace and stability in region.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said it is too early to assign blame for the tanker incident.