JEREMY Hunt has warned there is a "great risk" of a drift to war in the Gulf following the attacks last week on two oil tankers.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has joined Britain and the United States in blaming the Iranians for the attacks, saying Riyadh "won't hesitate" to tackle any threats.

Tehran has strongly denied being behind the attacks, which the Foreign Secretary said built on "a pattern of destabilising Iranian behaviour and pose a serious danger to the region".

The incidents have caused oil prices to soar amid heightened fears of a conflict in the region causing major disruption to world supplies.

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The Foreign Secretary said Britain was urging all sides in the dispute to "de-escalate" in order to avoid an armed conflict.

"This is the great risk of the situation that we are in. Both sides in this dispute think that the other side wouldn't want a war. We are urging all sides to de-escalate," Mr Hunt told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"Having spoken to President Trump, I am absolutely clear that for America they want this to end in negotiations.

"Let's see Iran stop its destabilising activities in Lebanon through Hezbollah, in Yemen where they are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, on the Gulf as we have seen. That is the long-term solution," he added.

Tensions in the region have been rising since the Trump administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed punishing economic sanctions on Tehran.

The Americans have accused Iran of using limpet mines to target the tankers, pointing to video footage said to show Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels.

In recent weeks, the US has sent an aircraft carrier strike group and other military assets to the region in what the military says is defensive posturing aimed at Iranian deterrence.

Britain is sending a detachment of special marines from the Plymouth-based 42 Commando, who will operate from Royal Navy ships out of the UK’s naval base in Bahrain. Their task will be to protect British ships from mines and small craft operating in the Gulf of Oman.

Mr Hunt defended his assertion that Iran was "almost certain" to blame for the attacks on the tankers.

"We have done our own intelligence assessment. We have got videos of what happened. We have seen evidence. We don't believe anyone else could have done this," he insisted.

Jeremy Corbyn has questioned the UK Government’s approach, tweeting: "Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.

"Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the Government's rhetoric will only increase the threat of war."

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In response, Mr Hunt accused the Labour leader of "virulent anti-Americanism".

He said: "For Jeremy Corbyn it's all America's fault. This is the same man by the way who refused to condemn Putin after the Salisbury Novichok attacks," he said.

"I'm afraid this shows that Labour is in the grip of virulent anti-Americanism that will be incredibly dangerous for our country if they ever took control," added the Foreign Secretary.

Rob Macaire, Britain's ambassador to Iran, sought an urgent meeting with the country's Foreign Ministry, denying reports he had been summoned by the Government in Tehran.

News to me,” he declared, explaingin: “I asked for an urgent meeting with the Foreign Ministry yesterday and it was granted. No 'summons'. Of course, if formally summoned I would always respond, as would all ambassadors."

Meanwhile, as tension grows in the region, a British-Iranian jailed in Tehran has begun a new hunger strike.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted of spying, which she strenuously denies.

Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, has joined her in refusing food. He has set up a tent outside the Iranian embassy in London, where he plans to stay while his wife is on hunger strike to protest against her "unfair imprisonment" and demand her unconditional release.