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Iran rejects Saudi claims it wanted to help damaged oil tanker

Iranian maritime authorities deny Saudi Arabia’s claims that it wanted to provide help to a damaged Iranian oil tanker after it was attacked off the coast of Jeddah in the Red Sea, saying Saudi coast guard ignored the ship’s repeated requests for help.

According to Press TV, a statement from the Port and Maritime Organization of Iran (PMO) released on Sunday said that Saudi authorities had refused to provide help to the Iranian tanker MT Sabiti after it came under attacks at 01:30 and 01:50 GMT Friday by two missiles fired from an unknown location.

The statement said the coast guard in Jeddah refused to respond to 16 distress calls sent by the ship over four communication channels between 05:11 and 07:20 GMT on Friday, adding that Saudi authorities responded to a communication from Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas at 05:55 GMT by claiming that they had not received any distress call from MT Sabiti and that Iranians were exaggerating the case.

The statement said that Saudi authorities also ignored another distress call sent by the ship at 07:30 GMT, prompting port officials in Iran to send an email to Jeddah, as well as to the coast guards in Sudan and Egypt, at 08:20 GMT, demanding help.

However, it said that two helicopters scrambled from a warship sailing nearby at 10:00 GMT had returned to the ship after 10 minutes without providing any help to the Iranian ship.

The attacks on MT Sabiti caused an oil spill that was stopped shortly after. The PMO’s narrative of what happened to the ship came in response to an official statement on the Saudi Press Agency on Saturday which claimed that the tanker had switched off its tracking system when Saudi authorities tried to offer help.

Iranian officials have said that MT Sabiti, which sails under the Iranian flag and is operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company, is currently on its way back home and will dock at an Iranian port within the next 10 days.

Iran has said that it would not let the attack on the ship go unanswered, insisting that a reaction would come after a thorough investigation of the facts in Tehran.