TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran’s military denied on Monday being behind attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, and said if it decided to block Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway in the Persian Gulf for the oil industry, it will do it publicly.
Iran’s Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Muhammad Baqeri said "the U.S. and its stooges” are using recent incidents as a pretext to accuse Iran.
"They must know that if the Islamic Republic of Iran decides to block exports of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, it is militarily strong enough to do that fully and publicly,” he said.
"Iran will not take any covert or deceptive steps like the deceitful and terrorist US, which has made the world insecure, along with its regional and international stooges,” he added.
Another senior Iranian security official said Tehran is responsible for security in the Persian Gulf and called on U.S. forces to leave the region.
"We have always said we guarantee the security of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz,” the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, was quoted as saying by the state broadcaster IRIB.
"We repeat our stance and call on U.S. forces to finish their presence in the region as they are the main source of crisis and instability.”
EU foreign ministers remained unconvinced by U.S. allegations that Iran was behind last week’s attack, as they arrived at a meeting on Monday.
There was strong support among EU countries for an independent UN investigation and calls for more evidence – with the UK isolated in its support the Trump administration’s line.
One foreign minister invoked the specter of U.S. misuse of intelligence over Iraq as a reason for skepticism, as representatives of the 28 countries arrived at the council meeting.
Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, said the EU states "continue to gather information” while Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said the Netherlands was "interested in any clarifications that can be made available”.
"We know the findings of the American and the British intelligence services, which assume that you can be almost certain. We are comparing this with our information. I think you have to proceed very, very carefully on this,” Maas said.
Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s foreign minister, said: "I believe that the main task of foreign ministers is to avoid war. We have to do that today.”
He added: "I’m convinced, as I was 16 years ago, that you really shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that you can solve a problem in the Middle East with weapons.”
His Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto said it was important that EU states have "the full evidence” before reaching any conclusion.
"I support very much the line of the UN Secretary General Mr Guterres, that a proper investigation (to put) all the facts on the table and then we can look what really has happened, who is behind this,” he said.
"I think it’s a very very concerning event but let’s have all the details first.”
Italy’s foreign minister Enzo Moavero said: "We do think that there is room for finding a way for peace and stability in the world.”