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LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and Britain said on Sunday they believed Iran carried out an attack on an Israeli-managed petroleum product tanker off the coast of Oman on Thursday that killed a Briton and a Romanian, both pledging to work with partners to respond.

Iran earlier on Sunday denied it was involved in the incident, after it was blamed by Israel.

“Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this attack, which killed two innocent people, using one-way explosive UAVs,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, adding there was “no justification” for the attack.

“We are working with our partners to consider our next steps and consulting with governments inside the region and beyond on an appropriate response, which will be forthcoming,” Blinken said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said earlier in the day that UK assessments had concluded that it was highly likely that Iran had used one or more drones to carry out the “unlawful and callous” attack.

“We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted, and a clear violation of international law by Iran,” he said. The UK was working with international partners on a “concerted response,” he added.

The incident involved the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned ship managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime.

The U.S. Navy, which was escorting the tanker with the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, said on Saturday that early indications “clearly pointed” to a drone attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had accused Tehran of “trying to shirk responsibility” for the attack, and called its denial “cowardly”.

Speaking during a weekly meeting of his cabinet on Sunday, Bennett said: “I declare unequivocally: Iran is the one that carried out the attack on the ship,” adding that intelligence supported his claim.

“We, in any case, have our own way to relay the message to Iran,” Bennett said. Israel’s foreign minister said earlier the incident deserved a harsh response.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly news conference on Sunday that the “Zionist regime (Israel) has created insecurity, terror and violence… These accusations about Iran’s involvement are condemned by Tehran”.

“Such accusations are meant by Israel to divert attention from facts and are baseless,” Khatibzadeh said.

There had been varying explanations for what happened to the tanker. Zodiac Maritime described the incident as “suspected piracy”, and a source at the Oman Maritime Security Center said it was an accident that occurred outside Omani territorial waters.

Iran and Israel have traded accusations of carrying out attacks on each other’s vessels in recent months.

Tensions have risen in the Gulf region since the United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Paul Sandle in London, and Michael Martina in WashingtonWriting by Parisa HafeziEditing by Mark Heinrich, Frances Kerry and Andrea Ricci)


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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The death toll from wildfires on Turkey’s southern coast rose to eight on Sunday as firefighters battled for a fifth day to contain blazes still raging in coastal resort towns.

Two more people died on Sunday due to wildfires in the southern town of Manavgat, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, adding that 10 others were receiving treatment in hospital in the area.

Most of more than 100 blazes that erupted in Turkey in the last five days have been contained, authorities said. However, fires were still blazing in Manavgat and in Marmaris and the inland town of Milas, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said, prompting the evacuation of some residential areas and hotels.

In the popular resort town of Bodrum, a group of tourists and hotel staff was evacuated by boat as flames spread and plumes of smoke filled the sky, footage showed. Pakdemirli said the blaze in the area had been contained by Sunday morning.

The fires had already claimed the lives of five people in Manavgat and one person in Marmaris in recent days. Efforts were being made to put out six fires still blazing in Turkey on Sunday, according to Forestry Ministry data.

Since Wednesday thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes. Locals as well as support teams from Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Azerbaijan were deployed to help firefighters. The Turkish government pledged to rebuild damaged homes and compensate for losses in areas affected by the fires.

Pakdemirli said at least 13 planes, 45 helicopters, drones, and 828 fire-fighting vehicles were involved in firefighting efforts.

The EU said it had helped mobilise three fire-fighting planes on Sunday, one from Croatia and two from Spain, after Turkey activated a disaster response scheme to request help from other European countries. Turkey is not a member of the EU.

In neighbouring Greece https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/greece-issues-wildfires-warning-over-dangerous-heatwave-2021-07-30, firefighters were trying to contain a wildfire burning in the west of the country that destroyed houses and left 15 citizens in hospital with breathing problems on Saturday, authorities said. Temperatures have been high in much of the country in recent days and are expected to reach 44 degrees Celsius on Monday and Tuesday.

On the Italian island of Sicily https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/firemen-fighting-wildfires-sicilian-town-catania-2021-07-31, firemen said on Saturday they were battling for a second straight day wildfires that reached the town of Catania, forcing people to leave their homes and the local airport to temporarily shut down.

(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul and Eleftherios Papadimas in Athens; additional reporting by Kate Abnett in BrusselsWriting by Ezgi ErkoyunEditing by Frances Kerry, Susan Fenton and Chris Reese)


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By Alex Fraser

VENICE (Reuters) – When the first cruise ship since the start of the pandemic sailed through the Venice lagoon last month, hundreds of people rallied on land and small boats in protest.

    A few weeks later, the government seemed to listen, announcing that to defend Venice’s ecosystem and heritage, cruise liners would be banned from the lagoon from Aug. 1.     The move ended years of political hesitation, apparently putting the demands of residents and culture bodies above those of port workers and the tourist industry.

“For us it’s a big victory,” Tommaso Cacciari, a member of the ‘No Grandi Navi’ (No Big Ships) campaign group, told Reuters. “Many compared us to David against Goliath.”

But the battle may not be over.

While campaigners worry about pollution and erosion in a city already in peril from rising seas, port workers hit by months of lockdowns fear for their livelihoods.

“It was a very huge blow, I felt awful,” said Antonio Velleca, who has worked for a baggage handling co-operative for cruise ships in Venice for 15 years.

“I felt I had lost the certainty of my life,” he added as he peered through the locked up gates of the partially closed terminal.

Ships over 25,000 tonnes will be banned from the shallow Giudecca Canal that leads past Piazza San Marco, the city’s most famous landmark. Cruise liners typically weigh at least four times as much.

The future remains uncertain. Rome has passed legislation numerous times in the past to limit liners’ access to Venice, but an alternative docking point is not yet ready.

The government wants to fast-track a docking station at the industrial port of nearby Marghera, but there are no signs that this will be completed soon.

Jane da Mosto of the ‘We are here Venice’ group that focuses on environmental and social projects, welcomed the ban on cruise liner “monsters” but feared it was not a long-term solution.

Filippo Olivetti, managing director of the Bassani group that provides port and tourism services, said Venice could not survive without cruise ships.

“It’s just crazy for a port and an area that made its fortune on port activities, on maritime traffic. They are going to become just a little bit more than a small marina,” he said.

(Writing by Emily Roe and Gavin Jones; Editing by Giles Elgood)


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