Tuesday, September 24, 2019 2:33 AM EST
By The Associated Press, AP
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on tensions in the Persian Gulf (all times local):
The leaders of France, Britain and Germany are urging Iran to enter talks about a new arrangement to bolster the fraying nuclear deal Tehran struck with the West in 2015 — though they said they still supported that agreement, which the U.S. has withdrawn from.
French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for Iran "to accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear programme as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles programme and other means of delivery."
Johnson went further, saying U.S. President Donald Trump should strike a new deal with Tehran.
Johnson told NBC that "there's one guy who can do a better deal ... and that is the president of the United States. I hope there will be a Trump deal."
France, Britain, Germany are jointly blaming Iran for attack on Saudi oil facilities.
After meeting at the United Nations on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation."
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. also blame Iran for the Sept. 14 drone-and-missile attack.
Iran has denied responsibility. Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the attack, though analysts say the cruise missiles used didn't have the range to be fired from Yemen.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is urging the United States and its allies to strike a new nuclear deal with Iran to replace the current, fraying agreement.
President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of that deal last year and slapped new sanctions on Tehran. Those sanctions have further hurt Iran's struggling economy. Tehran has resumed enriching uranium to limits beyond those set in the agreement.
Speaking Monday at the United Nations, Johnson said "whatever your objections with the old nuclear deal with Iran, it's time now to move forward and do a new deal."
Johnson's 10 Downing St. office clarified that Britain still backed the existing deal and wanted Iran to return to compliance.
Johnson is due to meet both Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this week at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Trump, when asked about Johnson's call for a new Iran deal, said: "Boris is a very smart man." He did not elaborate.
Iran's top diplomat says President Donald Trump "closed the door to negotiations" with the latest U.S. sanctions, which raised the status of Iran's central bank to a "global terrorist" institution.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters at the U.N. on Monday: "I know that President Trump did not want to do that," adding he "must have been misinformed."
Zarif also said he had no reason to believe Yemen's Houthi rebels were lying when they claimed responsibility for the recent attack on key Saudi oil facilities.
He called it a "high-precision, low-impact" attack with no casualties, and said: "If Iran was behind this attack, nothing would have been left of this refinery."
Zarif said President Hassan Rouhani will be proposing a new Hormuz Peace Initiative for the region with two key principles: Non-intervention and non-aggression.
Iran is criticizing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he said Britain has concluded Iran was responsible for attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil industry.
Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemning "fruitless efforts against the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Mousavi said "the British government should stop selling lethal weapons to Saudi Arabia" over its war in Yemen.
Johnson told reporters flying with him Sunday to New York for the U.N. General Assembly that Britain "is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran" for the Sept. 14 drone-and-missile attack.
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. also blame Iran. Iran denies being responsible. Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels claimed the attack, though analysts say the cruise missiles used didn't have the range to be fired from Yemen.
Iran's government spokesman says legal proceedings against a British-flagged oil tanker held by Tehran since July have concluded, though he doesn't know when the vessel will leave.
Ali Rabiei made the comments Monday amid growing speculation about the fate of the Stena Impero. However, the ship has not turned on its satellite-tracking beacon in 58 days nor has there been any sign that it has left its position off the Iranian coast near the port city of Bandar Abbas.
Stena Bulk, the ship's Swedish owners, also has not said anything about the ship's departure.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard seized the Stena Impero in July after authorities in Gibraltar seized an Iranian crude oil tanker. That ship has since left Gibraltar, leading to hopes the Stena Impero would be released.
France's president says he still hopes to mediate between Iran and the U.S. to help ease tensions in the Persian Gulf.
Speaking to reporters flying with him to the United Nations in New York Sunday, Emmanuel Macron said he remains "cautious" in attributing responsibility for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.
The U.S., Saudi Arabia and Britain blame Iran for the attacks.
As President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are taking part to the high-level U.N. meetings, Macron said "both protagonists are there ... Something may happen."
Trump has suggested he is open to meeting the Iranian leader.
Macron has taken a leading role in efforts to try to save a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, following Trump's decision to pull the U.S. from the deal and impose new sanctions.
Iran's president says his country will offer its own rival security coalition in the Persian Gulf, as the U.S. sends more troops to Saudi Arabia and heads its own regional military coalition.
Hassan Rouhani, before traveling to attend the U.N. meetings, said Monday that Iran will invite "all littoral states of the Persian Gulf" to join its coalition "to guarantee the region's security."
He says the initiative is not limited to "security" but also encompasses economic cooperation and will be presented in detail at the United Nations.
Rouhani describes the coalition as a plan for "long-term" peace in the area.
The proposal comes amid heightened Mideast tensions following a series of attacks, including a missile-and-drone assault on Saudi Arabia's oil industry that U.S. alleges Iran was behind. Tehran denies the charge and has warned against retaliatory strikes.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain has concluded Iran was responsible for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, and the U.K. will consider taking part in a U.S.-led military effort to bolster the Gulf kingdom's defenses.
But Johnson also says the U.K. will work with allies to "de-escalate" Mideast tensions.
The Conservative prime minister told reporters flying with him Sunday to New York for the U.N. General Assembly that Britain "is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran" for the Sept. 14 attack by drones and cruise missiles.
Saudi Arabia and the U.S. also blame Iran.
The Pentagon announced Friday it will send additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to the region. Johnson said, if asked, the U.K. would "consider in what way we could be useful."