Responsibility ‘almost certainly’ lies with Tehran, says Jeremy Hunt

Britain’s prime ministerial candidate Jeremy Hunt appears on BBC TV’s The Andrew Marr Show in London on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 17 June 2019

Responsibility ‘almost certainly’ lies with Tehran, says Jeremy Hunt

  • “We have done our own intelligence assessment and the phrase we used is almost certain,” Hunt said
  • Blast-hit tankers to be assessed off UAE coast before their cargos are unloaded

LONDON/DUBAI: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned on Saturday there was a “great risk” of escalation in the Gulf, adding that Washington wanted the situation to end in negotiations.The two oil tankers crippled in attacks in the Gulf of Oman last week that Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran are being assessed off the coast off the UAE before their cargos are unloaded, the ships’ operators said on Sunday.
A Japanese-owned tanker, the Kokuka Courageous, and a Norwegian-operated one, the Front Altair, were attacked on Thursday and left ablaze as they were passing through the Gulf of Oman. Britain has concluded that responsibility “almost certainly” lies with Iran. Asked on BBC television about the possibility of escalation, he said: “This is the great risk of the situation that we are in. “Both sides in this dispute think that the other side wouldn’t want a war. We are urging all sides to de-escalate.
“Having spoken to President Trump, I am absolutely clear that for America they want this to end in negotiations. “Let’s see Iran stop its destabilizing activities in Lebanon through Hezbollah, in Yemen where they are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, on the Gulf as we have seen. That is the long-term solution.”
The damaged Kokuka Courageous arrived on Sunday at a UAE anchorage site as Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being behind the attack. US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran “written all over it” — rejecting Tehran’s vehement denial. Hunt defended his assertion that Iran was “almost certain” to blame for the attacks.
“We have done our own intelligence assessment. We have got videos of what happened. We have seen evidence. We don’t believe anyone else could have done this,” he said.
The owner of the Japanese vessel said Friday in Tokyo however that the crew saw a “flying object” prior to a second blast on board citing two apparent attacks.
He added he believed initial reports suggesting a torpedo was involved in the attack were incorrect as the damage was above the sea surface not below water, which would have suggested a torpedo.


Algerian court jails protesters over election

Updated 19 November 2019

Algerian court jails protesters over election

ALGIERS: An Algerian court has jailed four protesters for 18 months for disrupting a candidate’s campaign for the Dec. 12 presidential election which is opposed by a mass protest movement.
The court sentenced the four on Monday after protests on Sunday in the western city of Tlemcen, where one of the five candidates, Ali Benflis, was campaigning. No details were available on what their exact actions were.
Algeria’s authorities are trying to quell a protest movement that erupted in February to demand the departure of the country’s ruling hierarchy, an end to corruption and the army’s withdrawal from politics.
The army, which has emerged as the most powerful institution in the country, has pushed for next month’s election as a means to end the protests and restore normality. The former president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, quit in April.
The judgment comes a week after a series of other prison sentences were handed down to protesters who had raised flags with Berber symbols during earlier demonstrations.
Several opposition leaders have also been held during the protests, and charged with contributing to damaging army morale.
However, the authorities have also detained numerous current and former senior officials on corruption charges, and have jailed some of them including the once untouchable former intelligence chief.
The protesters have rejected any presidential election carried out now, saying the continued presence of Bouteflika allies in the upper echelons of the government mean it cannot be free or fair.
Human Rights Watch said last week that the arrest of scores of protesters looked like “part of a pattern of trying to weaken opposition to Algeria’s interim rulers and their determination to hold presidential elections.”