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Iran says tanker ‘attacks’ as Japan PM visits ‘suspicious’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrives to meet his Japanese counterpart in Tehran on June 12, 2019. – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the first Japanese premier to visit Iran in 41 years, is expected in Tehran for a rare diplomatic mission, hoping to ease tensions between the Islamic republic and Tokyo’s key ally Washington. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Thursday that reported attacks on two tankers off the Iranian coast just as Japan’s prime minister held Tehran talks was more than suspicious.

“Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while PM @AbeShinzo was meeting with Ayatollah @khamenei_ir for extensive and friendly talks. Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” Zarif tweeted.

Japan PM Shinzo Abe met Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday morning, seeking to ease soaring tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi too expressed “concern” over the coincidence of the reported tanker attacks with Abe’s visit, saying it was “against regional and trans-regional efforts … towards reducing tensions.”

“Iran supports cooperation and talks in the region”, he added.

One of the two tankers — Kokuka Courageous — belongs to the Japanese company Kokuka Sangyo Ltd, the head of the company told reporters.

The ship’s owner confirmed that their tanker had been attacked and that all of its 21 crew had been rescued.

Iran’s navy rescued 44 sailors in all from the Kokuka Courageous and the Nowegian owned Front Altair after fires broke out on both vessels.

According to Iranian state media, the Front Altair was carrying ethanol from Qatar to Taiwan, while the Kokuka Courageous was carrying methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore.

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