Iran rejects G7 and US allegations over drone attack on ship

Tehran (AFP) –


Iran on Saturday rejected Western allegations its drones were used in a deadly tanker attack, while accusing Israel of concocting the "scenario" in a bid to undermine the Islamic republic.

The MT Mercer Street, an oil products tanker operated by Israeli-controlled Zodiac maritime, was struck last week off Oman's coast, killing two crew members -- a Briton and a Romanian.

The incident on July 29 upped the stakes in what analysts have called a "shadow war" that has seen a spate of attacks on vessels linked to Iran and Israel.

G7 foreign ministers on Friday pointed the finger of blame for the latest attack at Iran, as the US military released the findings of an investigation alleging the drones were made in the Islamic republic.

Iran dismissed the allegations.

"We strongly condemn the baseless statement by the foreign ministers of the G7 and the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs in which they have directed baseless accusations at the Islamic Republic of Iran," foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

The tanker attack and the accusations against Iran were a "scenario" concocted with "notable" timing, he said, as they came days before Iran's new ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi took the oath of office.

Raisi was inaugurated on August 3 by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and sworn in by parliament two days later, taking over from moderate president Hassan Rouhani.

"For experts and those who know the history of this region, it is not a new thing that the Zionist regime (Israel) would design such conspiracies," Khatibzadeh said.

Citing the results of a probe, the US Central Command said on Friday that remnants from one of three explosives-laden drones that targeted the Mercer Street indicated it was produced in Iran.

"This was a deliberate and targeted attack, and a clear violation of international law... There is no justification for this attack," the foreign ministers of the world's seven most developed nations (G7) said in a statement.

- 'Fake evidence' -

Iran's military spokesman denied the US allegations.

"The Americans say they have found parts of Iran's drones in the water, and this is their evidence. But what laboratory has determined (the drones) belong to Iran?," Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi was quoted by IRNA news agency as saying.

"This is the Americans' method, to weave stories and use it to accuse Iran... this is the method they have chosen to pressure Iran," he added.

In this photo released by the US Central Command, taken by the US Navy, and received by AFP on August 6, 2021, shows the damaged caused by a UAV after an attack against motor tanker Mercer Street
In this photo released by the US Central Command, taken by the US Navy, and received by AFP on August 6, 2021, shows the damaged caused by a UAV after an attack against motor tanker Mercer Street US Navy Captain Bill Urban US NAVY/AFP

Shekarchi also said the accusations were a "psychological operation" launched against Iran by its enemies.

"If we are supposed to confront our enemies, like what we did at Ain al-Assad, we would clearly announce it," he noted, referring to an Iraqi military base housing American troops.

The base was hit by a barrage of Iranian missiles in January 2020 to avenge the assassination of the Revolutionary Guards' top commander Qasem Soleimani, killed in an American air strike days before in Baghdad.

"Creating fake evidence is not very difficult (and) since the Zionists have a record of creating fake evidence, causing an explosion on a ship is not very difficult," Shekarchi added.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said his government was "working on enlisting the world" in response to the attack but warned "we also know how to act alone".

Iran on Thursday warned its arch-foe not to take military action against it.

"We state this clearly: ANY foolish act against Iran will be met with a DECISIVE response," Khatibzadeh said.

"Don't test us," added the foreign ministry spokesman.

There have been several reported attacks on Israeli and Iranian ships in recent months that the two have blamed each for.

Iran has also accused Israel of sabotaging its nuclear sites and killing a number of its scientists.