The Latest: South Korea firm confirms rescue of oil tanker crew after reported attack

MGN
By  | 

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - The Latest on Mideast developments amid rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region (all times local):

2:35 p.m.

A South Korean company confirms that all the 23 crew aboard one of the two oil tankers reportedly attacked near the Strait of Hormuz have been rescued by one of its cargo vessels sailing in the area.

The Seoul-based Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. on Thursday cited crew of its Hyundai Dubai cargo vessel as saying that there were three rounds of explosion sounds at the MT Front Altair before it sent an emergency distress call.

The company says it's the operator of the Hyundai Dubai vessel.

A company statement says the 30,000-ton-class Hyundai Dubai vessel sent a lifeboat to rescue MT Front Altair's 23 crew members before embarking them on the cargo vessel.

It says the Hyundai Dubai vessel later handed over the rescued crew members to an Iranian rescue boat.

It says the MT Front Altair, built in 2016, had reportedly been on its way to Japan with naphtha, a petrochemical product.

___

-this item has been corrected to say the Hyundai Dubai vessel is a 30,000-ton-class;

___

2:20 p.m.

The Iranian foreign minister has described the reported attack on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz as suspicious, since it occurred during a meeting between Japan's prime minister and Iran's supreme leader.

Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comment in a tweet on Thursday: "Suspicious doesn't begin to describe what likely transpired this morning."

He didn't elaborate.

Zarif described the talks between Shinzo Abe and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as "extensive and friendly."

However, Khamenei said Iran would never negotiate with the U.S. and said that while his country didn't seek nuclear weapons, "America could not do anything" to stop Iran if it did.

___

2:05 p.m.

The Japanese trade minister says two tankers carrying "Japan-related" cargo were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz.

Hiroshige Seko said on Thursday that all crew members were safely rescued. He said the government has set up a task force and that the government has informed the shipping industry to use precautions.

The Japan Shipowners' Association said one of the two ships attacked is a Panamanian-registered chemical tanker belonging to its Japanese member and was on its way to Singapore and Thailand, not to Japan.

It said all 21 Filipino crewmembers were uninjured.

The attacks came as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was wrapping up a two-day trip to Iran with a mission to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington.

No one has claimed responsibility or explained how the tankers were attacked.

___

1:35 p.m.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneni says that while Tehran doesn't want an atomic bomb, "America could not do anything" to stop Iran if it did.

Khamenei made the comment on Thursday during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who came to Tehran as an interlocutor for President Donald Trump to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran.

His visit may not have succeeded, however. Khamenei earlier was quoted as saying Iran "will in no way repeat" negotiations with the U.S. amid tension over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Khamenei's official website quoted him as telling Abe: "I don't regard Trump as deserving any exchange of messages and have no response for him and will give no response."

___

1:20 p.m.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that Tehran "will in no way repeat" negotiations with the U.S. amid tension over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Khamenei made the comment on Thursday, during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who traveled to Tehran as an interlocutor for President Donald Trump to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran.

But the comments by Khamenei could indicate that Abe's visit may not have succeeded.

Khamenei's official website quoted him as telling Abe: "I don't regard Trump as deserving any exchange of messages and have no response for him and will give no response."

___

12:50 p.m.

Japan's Trade Ministry says the two oil tankers reportedly attacked near the Strait of Hormuz carried "Japan-related" cargo.

Thursday's comment came as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was wrapping up a two-day trip to Iran with a mission to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington.

No one has claimed responsibility or explained how the tankers were attacked. However, the U.S. previously blamed Iran for an attack last month on four oil tankers close to the nearby Emirati port of Fujairah.

Meanwhile, Iranian state television reported that 44 sailors from the two tankers have been transferred to an Iranian port in the southern province of Hormozgan.

___

Noon

A firm that operates a crude oil vessel - one of two reportedly targeted in the Gulf of Oman - says an explosion caused a fire onboard. Another shipping firm identified the second vessel hit and said 21 sailors were evacuated, with one slightly injured in the incident.

International Tanker Management, which operates the MT Front Altair, told The Associated Press the incident is still being investigated and that it was unclear what caused the explosion, which occurred around 8 a.m. local time on Thursday.

The MT Front Altair had been loaded at a port in the Gulf with a petroleum product known as naptha, and was on its way to the Far East. Its crew of 23 is safe after being evacuated by the nearby Hyundai Dubai vessel.

Meanwhile, BSM Ship Management says its crew of 21 aboard the Kokuka Courageous carrying methanol has also been rescued in the Gulf of Oman by a nearby vessel after what it described as an "incident on board which resulted in damage to the ship's hull starboard side."

One crew man was slightly injured in the incident and is receiving first aid on board the Coastal Ace.

___