(Bloomberg) — Iran’s foreign minister denied that his country is helping Yemen’s Houthi rebels attack commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea, warning the waterway won’t be safe as long as Israel maintains its offensive in Gaza.
The White House, citing newly released intelligence, said Friday that Iran was “deeply involved” in the planning of the Houthi attacks and has supplied weapons, financial support and training.
“The accusation is baseless,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said in a news conference in Tehran cited by state television. The attacks are “a completely Yemeni decision in support and defense of Gaza,” he said.
Read more: US Says Red Sea Patrol Will Be Able to Thwart Houthi Attacks
His comments on Saturday come as the Pentagon said a one-way drone fired from Iran struck a chemical tanker in the Indian Ocean, raising the question of whether a new risk area is opening to global vessels.
The attack struck the Chem Pluto — a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned and Netherlands-operated vessel — on Saturday about 200 nautical miles from the coast of India, according to the Pentagon statement. There were no casualties and a fire on board the tanker has been extinguished.
Separately, US Central Command said two Houthi ballistic missiles were fired into the Southern Red Sea on Saturday, though no ships were reported to be impacted. US and UK forces also reported several incidents of ships being targeted by Houthi drones in both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
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The Houthi attacks in the Red Sea on ships the group believes are supportive of Israel have caused chaos in an area that accounts for some 12% of global maritime trade. The world’s major container and oil shippers have been rerouting vessels away from the waterway. The strikes have roiled shipping markets and helped push up oil prices.
President Joe Biden said Saturday he had a long conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I did not ask for a cease-fire,” he said in response to a reporter’s question while departing the White House for Camp David, where he’s spending the Christmas holiday.
Amirabdollahian said a US-led coalition to protect naval traffic in the Red Sea “isn’t a solution.”
“There’s no need for a coalition. They stop supporting the murderous Israeli regime and they will see a safer region and a better situation even for the transfer of energy,” Amirabdollahian said.
—With assistance from Kate Queram, Tony Czuczka and Jordan Fabian.
(Updates with Pentagon statement on drone fired from Iran in fourth paragraph)
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