The attack on the Mercer Street is the first known fatal strike on commercial shipping in the region after years of tensions over the tattered nuclear deal between western nations and Iran.

The Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime which was attacked off Oman's coast as seen in Cape Town, South Africa, January 2, 2016 in this picture obtained from ship tracker website, MarineTraffic.com.
The Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime which was attacked off Oman's coast as seen in Cape Town, South Africa, January 2, 2016 in this picture obtained from ship tracker website, MarineTraffic.com. (Reuters Archive)

Britain and Iran have issued warnings to each other's diplomats as tensions escalated over a recent attack on an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea.

Iran said on Monday it will respond promptly to any threat against its security, after the United States, Israel and Britain blamed Tehran for an attack on an Israeli-managed tanker off the coast of Oman.

Tehran has denied any involvement in the attack on Thursday in which two crew members – a Briton and a Romanian – were killed.

The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to the attack on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the incident as "clearly an unacceptable and outrageous attack on commercial shipping".

"Iran should face up to the consequences of what they've done," Johnson told reporters on Monday.

Britain summoned the Iranian ambassador on Monday. Later, Iran summoned the British Charge d' Affaires and Romania's top envoy in Tehran over their countries' "accusations against the Islamic Republic", Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported.

"Iran has no hesitation in protecting its security and national interests and will respond promptly and strongly to any possible adventure," Iranian state TV quoted Tehran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh as saying on Monday.

The ministry added that this is not the first time that Britain has made accusations against Iran without providing evidence.

The US 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". Israel's foreign minister said on Sunday the incident deserved a harsh response.

READ MORE: US Navy: 'Drone strike' hit Israeli-managed oil tanker off Oman

An unidentified Iranian official told Iran's Nournews news agency earlier that Tehran considered "the threats of Western officials and the Zionist regime (Israel) to be more of a propaganda gesture".

"And Washington and London will be directly responsible for the consequences," the official told Nournews, which is close to Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

The attack on the Mercer Street is the first known fatal strike on commercial shipping in the region after years of tensions over the tattered nuclear deal between western nations and Iran.

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

Tensions have spiked between the two countries since 2018, when then US president Donald Trump ditched Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy. 

Israel has voiced concerns about efforts by Iran and US President Joe Biden's administration to revive the nuclear pact, under which Iran curbed its sensitive nuclear work in exchange for lifting sanctions.

READ MORE: Israel pushes for UN action against Iran over deadly ship attack

Source: AFP