Thursday, June 20th, 2019

Oil tanker ‘on fire’ in Gulf of Oman as Japanese PM visits Tehran

A British maritime safety group had earlier warned of an unspecified incident in the Gulf of Oman and urged “extreme caution” amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran and a high-stakes visit by the Japanese Prime Minister to Iran.

Iranian media claimed – without offering any evidence – that there had been an explosion in the area targeting oil tankers. A private intelligence firm later said an oil tanker was adrift and on fire.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy, put out the alert but did not elaborate on the incident. It said it was investigating.

Japan’s top government spokesman said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s high-stakes trip to Iran was intended to help de-escalate tensions in the Middle East – and not specifically mediate between Tehran and Washington. Abe is the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit Tehran since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The remarks by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to reporters were apparently meant to downplay and lower expectations amid uncertain prospects for Abe’s mission.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, meets with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday.Credit:AP

Abe met Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday, the second and final day of a visit that was not expected to produce immediate diplomatic results.

On Wednesday, after talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Abe warned any “accidental conflict” that could be sparked amid the heightened US-Iran tensions must be avoided.

Tensions have escalated in the Middle East and Iran appears poised to break the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement last year.

AP, Reuters