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Biden cuts weekend trip short for urgent Middle East consultations

Israel urges EU to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guards 'terrorist organisation'
Image: Video Screenshot

US President Joe Biden cut short a weekend trip to Delaware on Saturday for urgent consultations in Washington on the Middle East, the White House said, as  tensions soar amid growing fears of an attack on Israel.

Iran has vowed retaliation after a presumed Israeli strike on April 1 leveled an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus, killing seven members of the elite Revolutionary Guards including two generals.

A significant attack on Israel is expected in response, US officials have warned.

Tensions had already ratcheted up earlier Saturday when Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a container ship “related to the Zionist regime (Israel)” near the Strait of Hormuz, state media reported.

The ship’s operator, the Italian-Swiss group MSC, later confirmed Iranian authorities had boarded it.

The White House pushed back against the seizure of the British-owned vessel.

“We call on Iran to release the vessel and its international crew immediately,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson.

“Seizing a civilian vessel without provocation is a blatant violation of international law, and an act of piracy by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.”

Biden had said on Friday that he expected Iran to retaliate “sooner than later,” and earlier this week had said Tehran was “threatening to launch a significant attack.”

On Thursday the Pentagon said the top US commander for the Middle East had traveled to Israel for talks on security threats with the country’s military officials.

The Strait of Hormuz connects the Gulf with the Indian Ocean and, according to the US Energy Information Administration, more than a fifth of annual global oil consumption passes through it each year.


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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