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Iran denies tankers attack as tensions soar

first_imgDubai: Iran dismissed as “baseless” Friday US accusations that it carried out twin attacks that left two tankers ablaze in the Gulf of Oman, escalating tensions across the region and sending world oil prices soaring. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Washington would defend its forces and allies in the region, and the United States pressed its case as the UN Security Council met to address the incident — the second in a month in the strategic shipping lane. Also Read – Conservative leader calls Trudeau a fraud in Canadian debateForeign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Friday that the US administration had “immediately jumped to make allegations against Iran without a shred of factual or circumstantial evidence”. He accused it of seeking to “sabotage diplomacy” amid a visit to Iran by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and “cover up its economic terrorism against Iran” in enforcing crippling unilateral sanctions. With tensions spiralling between Iran and the United States, the European Union called for “maximum restraint” and UN chief Antonio Guterres warned the world cannot afford a major confrontation in the Gulf. Also Read – ‘Treason case against Musharraf to be heard daily from Oct 24’Iran labelled the apparent attacks “suspicious,” as its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rebuffed overtures by Abe to open talks with US President Donald Trump. Pompeo said there was strong evidence of Iran’s culpability, after the US Navy said it had spotted an unexploded limpet mine stuck to the hull of one of the vessels. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) released a grainy black-and-white video it said showed an Iranian patrol boat “removing the unexploded limpet mine” from the ship. “It is the assessment of the United States that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks,” Pompeo announced. “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,” he said. The two vessels were struck by explosions in the early daylight hours Thursday after passing through the Strait of Hormuz and travelling around 25 nautical miles off Iran’s southern coast headed towards Asia. The Norwegian-owned Front Altair ethanol tanker was hit by three explosions, according to the Norwegian Maritime Authority, and remained ablaze late Thursday. Explosions also struck the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which was loaded with methanol, but the fire on board was soon extinguished. One crew member suffered minor injuries. The ship was on Friday heading towards the Omani port of Khor Fakkan. There was no claim of responsibility for the blasts, which struck both tankers at the waterline. Iran said its navy rescued several dozen crew members of the two vessels, while the US Navy said it had picked up 21 from the Kokuka Courageous. Washington has dispatched the destroyer USS Mason to the scene “to provide assistance,” CENTCOM said in a statement. Pompeo called Thursday’s tanker explosions “the latest in a series of attacks” he alleged were undertaken by Iran or its “proxies,” including a Yemeni missile rebel missile which wounded 26 civilians at a Saudi airport on Wednesday. A Saudi-led coalition which has been fighting the rebels it accuses of being Iranian proxies said Saudi air defences had intercepted a new rebel attack on a Saudi airport on Friday. The abortive attack using five rebel drones targeted the southwestern city of Khamis Mushait, home to a huge airbase which has been the main launchpad of the coalition’s more than four-year bombing campaign in Yemen. “Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security,” Pompeo said. The United States has also accused Iran over May 12 attacks on four tankers anchored in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah. A five-nation investigation into those attacks said its preliminary findings indicated a state actor was responsible but stopped short of naming Iran. The US called Thursday for the UN Security Council to confront the “clear threat” posed by Iran, as the council met behind closed doors to hear a briefing on Washington’s assessment that Tehran was responsible. Iran’s mission to the UN pushed back, saying: “The US and its regional allies must stop warmongering.” Oil prices jumped at the threat of open conflict around the Strait of Hormuz, the chokepoint between the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, through which transit some 15 million barrels per day of crude passes. In London, benchmark Brent crude jumped 2.2 per cent to USD 61.31 a barrel, while in New York, the US standard, West Texas Intermediate, rose 2.2 per cent, to USD 52.28.last_img read more

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WatchVancouver home sales fall to lowest yearly total in 18 years detached

VANCOUVER — Home sales in metro Vancouver plummeted to their lowest level in nearly two decades last year and the average home price moved lower in the once red-hot real estate market.The total number of homes sold in Metro Vancouver last year fell to 24,619, marking the lowest total since 2000, according to data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. That’s down 31.6 per cent from nearly 36,000 in 2017 and 25 per cent below the region’s 10-year average.The composite benchmark price for a home, which includes detached properties, townhomes and condominiums, dropped 2.7 per cent from December 2017 to finish the year at $1,032,400. Murder houses are a tough sell, but sometimes a home’s dark past stays hidden B.C. housing market shows signs of moderation as some property values drop by 10 per cent Toronto and Vancouver most ‘vulnerable’ to interest rate hikes as personal debt soars, CMHC warns Detached homes led the fall as their benchmark price fell 7.8 per cent from December 2017 to $1,479,000.Townhome and condominium prices saw small gains over the year. The benchmark price of a townhouse rose 1.3 per cent year-over-year to $809,700, while the benchmark price of a condominium advanced 0.6 per cent to $664,100.“As the total supply of homes for sale began to accumulate in the spring, we began to see downward pressure on prices across all home types throughout the latter half of the year,” said REBGV president Phil Moore.Condo prices were down 0.6 per cent from November 2018, while townhome prices fell 1.1 per cent month-over-month.Moore called 2018 “a transition period” for the region’s housing market, which moved away from sellers’ market conditions.“High home prices, rising interest rates and new mortgage requirements and taxes all contributed to the market conditions we saw in 2018,” he said.The board’s data comes a day after BC Assessment, an independent, provincial Crown corporation whose estimates are used to determine property taxes, released data showing a drop of up to 15 per cent on the estimated values of some detached homes in urban areas of Greater Vancouver as of July 1, 2018.The median single-family residential property value in Vancouver, Burnaby and North Vancouver fell four per cent, according to BC Assessment. In the district of West Vancouver the drop was 12 per cent, while on the University Endowment Lands it was 11 per cent.As the real estate market softens in some areas, Greater Vancouver is now seeing signs of moderation, BC Assessment said in a statement.Other areas, though, still experienced gains. The median single-family residential property value in Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Squamish rose between four and six per cent.Residential strata units, like condominiums, rose between zero and 25 per cent in urban areas of Greater Vancouver, according to the data. read more