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Iran Describes as ‘Threatening Act’ Britain’s Impounding of Oil Tanker

Iran Describes as ‘Threatening Act’ Britain’s Impounding of Oil Tanker

Monday, 8 July, 2019 - 10:00
A British Royal Navy patrol vessel guards the oil supertanker Grace 1 as it sits anchored in waters of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, July 4, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran has deemed as a “threatening act” Britain’s seizing last week of an Iranian oil tanker, said Defense Minister Amir Hatami on Monday.

“These days we witnessed a threatening act from the government of England in the Strait of Gibraltar against a tanker from” Iran, he stated.

“This is an incorrect and wrong action, an action similar to maritime robbery...certainly these kind of robberies will not be tolerated.”

Royal Marines impounded the tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Iran denies the vessel was headed to Syria, where the regime of Bashar Assad is an ally of Tehran.

Later on Monday, the government of Gibraltar said tests have shown the tanker was fully loaded with crude oil.

“Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar can now confirm, after having received the results of comprehensive laboratory testing, that ... the Grace 1, which was detained in the early hours of Thursday morning, is loaded to capacity with crude oil,” it said in a statement.

Spanish authorities said the seizure came at the request of the US.

Authorities in the British territory said the tanker can be held for up to 14 days. An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander threatened to seize a British ship in retaliation.

The tanker was not headed to Syria, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Sunday, without specifying the final destination of the vessel.

Hatami said Iran’s downing of an unmanned American aircraft last month sent a message that Tehran would defend its borders. Washington said the drone was shot down over international waters.

Separately, Iranian army chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said on Monday that Iran is not looking for war with any country, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency.

A spokesman for the government of Gibraltar said last week all 28 crew members remain on the vessel while being interviewed as witnesses. The crew is comprised of mainly Indian, Pakistani and Ukrainian nationals, he said.

The vessel was likely carrying just over 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil, the data firm Refinitv said. Tracking data showed it made a slow trip around the southern tip of Africa before reaching the Mediterranean, it said.

US national security adviser John Bolton tweeted that the ship's seizure was "excellent news."

"America & our allies will continue to prevent regimes in Tehran & Damascus from profiting off this illicit trade," Bolton added.

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