Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres Reuters

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday pressed for an investigation to establish those responsible for a spate of suspected attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf that has raised fears of war.

After the United States accused Iran of carrying out the attacks and Tehran rejected the accusations, the UN chief suggested that an independent entity could step in to verify the facts.

"It's very important to know the truth. It's very important that responsibilities are clarified," Guterres told reporters, according to the AFP news agency.

"Obviously that can only be done if there is an independent entity that verifies those facts," he added.

Guterres said, however, that he did not have the authority to establish such an inquiry, adding that this was the purview of the Security Council.

His comments follow Thursday’s attack on Japanese- and Norwegian-owned oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman after passing through the Strait of Hormuz, some 25 nautical miles off Iran's southern coast.

Thursday’s attack follows attacks on four tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on May 12. Two of the ships targeted in that attack were Saudi oil tankers that were en route to the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of being behind the attacks in the Gulf of Oman.

"It is the assessment of the United States that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks," Pompeo told reporters, adding, "This 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.”

The US Central Command later released footage that purports to show the crew of an Iranian patrol boat removing an object from the hull of the Japanese tanker.

Iran categorically denied being behind the attack.

The two attacks followed repeated threats by Iran to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and through which about a third of all oil traded at sea passes.

In the last few years there have been several close encounters between Iranian and American vessels in the area.

Late last year, a commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards threatened US bases in Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar, as well as US aircraft carriers in the Gulf. These bases, he said, are within range of Iranian missiles which have a range of 700 km (450 miles).

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)