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Investigation says 'state actor' responsible for Gulf attacks

Iran suspected by US, Saudi Arabia

The initial findings of an international investigation into attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in May has concluded that a "state actor" is the most likely culprit.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway told the United Nations Security Council Thursday afternoon that there are "strong indications that the four attacks were part of a sophisticated and coordinated operation carried out with significant operational capacity."

Of the four commercial ships targeted in the May 12 attack, one was flying a UAE flag, two were tankers owned by Saudi Arabia, and the fourth was a Norwegian tanker.

Iran, the country suspected by both the US and Saudi Arabia of being behind the blasts, was not named as responsible by the investigation this week. The UAE ambassador, Lana Nusseibeh, told reporters she did not accuse Iran of responsibility in an informal Security Council meeting about the investigation.

Tehran has denounced the attack and denied involvement in the incident, which came as tensions between Iran, the US and its Gulf allies were ramping up amid deteriorating relations.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, was clear that Riyadh believes "responsibility lies on the shoulders of Iran."

He said there was "enough evidence" to demonstrate Iranian responsibility, adding that "if we tolerate a symbolic attack like this ... it opens the door for more."

US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said that Iran was "almost certainly" behind the attacks. The US is conducting its own investigation. Acting US Ambassador Jonathon Cohen declined to comment.

The briefings provided to the Security Council and later to reporters were mostly technical.

Diplomats said the assessment of the damage to the four vessels and chemical analysis of the debris recovered revealed "it was highly likely that limpet mines' were deployed."

In a printed statement describing the conclusions, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway said the attacks required trained divers, explosive charges placed under the waterline, near the engines, so as to not sink the ships or detonate their cargoes, which indicated a knowledge of the design of the targeted ships. The countries say rapid withdrawal of the plotters by fast boats indicated understanding of the geographic area.

The findings of the UAE probe is expected to be officially submitted to the Security Council for consideration. Agreement on any action is questionable. Exiting the Council informal briefing, Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said "we shouldn't jump to conclusions."


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