Middle East

Saudi crown prince 'won't hesitate' to tackle Iran threat after Gulf attack

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Two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman this week, heightening tensions across the region.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he "won't hesitate" to tackle threats to the kingdom, in his first comment amid ongoing tensions with rival Iran following attacks on oil tankers in a vital Gulf shipping channel.

"We do not want a war in the region... But we won't hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests," Prince Mohammed said in excerpts, published on Sunday, of an interview to pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Saudi crown prince went on to accuse rival Iran of the twin attacks, in the interview.

"The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese prime minister as a guest in Tehran and responded to his (diplomatic) efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese," he told Asharq al-Awsat.

The attacks on Thursday on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman sent crude prices soaring amid a tense standoff between Iran and the US.

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was carrying highly flammable methanol through the Gulf of Oman when it was rocked by explosions, causing a blaze that was quickly extinguished. 

US President Donald Trump said the twin attack, which also targeted a tanker owned by Oslo-listed company Frontline, had Iran "written all over it".

An Iranian navy boat try to control a fire on the crude oil tanker Front Altair in the Gulf of Oman, 13 June 2019.

Tehran has vehemently denied any involvement.

Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, is a bitter regional rival of Iran.

US Navy sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge helping the crew of the M/V Kokuka Courageous after it was attacked.

Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the United States.

Doing so would disrupt oil tankers travelling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes. 

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