14:50 GMT22 January 2021
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    The US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, will travel to the Middle East for meetings in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain to discuss Washington's claim that Tehran is a threat to the region, the US Department of State said Wednesday.

    "He will also share additional US intelligence on the range of active threats Iran currently poses to the region", the department said in a statement.

    Hook is expected to travel to Europe next week to meet with officials from the UK, Germany and France "to discuss a range of issues concerning the Iranian regime", according to the State Department.

    Earlier on Wednesday, Hook told the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that there had been no discussions within the Trump administration about carrying out an offensive military strike against Iran. Hook emphasized, however, that any action taken by the Trump administration against Iran would be lawful.

    On Monday, the Defense Department announced the US would deploy an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East after recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

    Last week, two oil tankers, the Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair, were reportedly attacked in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz. While the causes of the incident remain unknown, the US claimed that Iran had allegedly sabotaged the vessels. The US military subsequently released a video showing alleged Iranian forces removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers. The footage, however, did not show any boat names or flags that could help substantiate the claims.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif accused the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia of coordinating a campaign to falsely blame Iran for the attacks.

    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran does not intend to wage war with the United States, but will continue to resist Washington.

    The US has in recent weeks stepped up its forces in the Middle East in what US National Security Adviser John Bolton has described as a clear and unmistakable message to Iran. The new US deployments in the region include an aircraft carrier strike group, Patriot missiles, B-52 bombers, and F-15 fighters, according to the Pentagon.

    Relations between the Washington and Tehran have become increasingly hostile since 2018, when the US unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions on the Islamic republic.


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