Iran says it “categorically rejects” US claims that it is behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had blamed Iran for the “unprovoked attacks” on Thursday.
He added that the US had made its assessment based on intelligence about the type of weapons used.
But Iran dismissed the claim as “unfounded”. A senior Iranian official had earlier told the BBC that “Iran has no connection” with the explosions.
Dozens of crew members were rescued after the blasts on the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair, owned by a Norwegian company.
In a statement released on Friday, the Iranian mission to the United Nations said: “Iran categorically rejects the US unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents, and condemns it in the strongest possible terms.”
Within hours of the denial, the US military’s Central Command released a video it says shows Iran’s Revolutionary Guard “removing [an] unexploded limpet mine” from the side of the Kokuka Courageous following the blasts.
The blasts come a month after four oil tankers were damaged in an unclaimed attack off the United Arab Emirates. The US at the time blamed Iran – but Tehran denied the accusations.
Oil prices jumped as much as 4% after Thursday’s incident in the Gulf of Oman, which lies at one end of a vital shipping lane through which hundreds of millions of dollars of oil pass.
BIMCO, the world’s largest international shipping association, said the tension in the area are “now as high as it gets without being an actual armed conflict”.
Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that if Iran was involved, “it is a deeply unwise escalation which poses a real danger to the prospects of peace and stability in the region”.
What did Mike Pompeo say?
“It is the assessment of the United States that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks,” the US secretary of state said at a news conference in Washington.
“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”
Mr Pompeo presented no evidence.
“This is only the latest in the series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests.
“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation, and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran,” Mr. Pompeo said.
What do we know about the explosions?
The Norwegian Maritime Authority said earlier on Thursday that the Front Altair had been “attacked”, and that there were three blasts on board.
Wu I-fang, a spokesman for Taiwan’s CPC Corp oil refiner, which chartered the Front Altair, said it was carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha and was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo”, although this has not been confirmed.
Other unverified reports suggested a mine attack.
The ship’s owner, Frontline, said the vessel was on fire – but denied reports in Iranian media that it had sunk.
The operator of the Kokuka Courageous, BSM Ship Management, said its crew abandoned ship and were rescued by a passing vessel.
Both Iran and the US have released pictures showing rescued crew members on board their vessels.