Published: Thu, July 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Oil tanker seized off Gibraltar not destined for Syria, says Iran

Oil tanker seized off Gibraltar not destined for Syria, says Iran

In recent weeks, the wider Persian Gulf has seen Iran shoot down a USA military surveillance drone, mysterious attacks on oil tankers, and Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen launching bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.

Britain's seizing of an Iranian oil tanker last week was a threatening act that will not be tolerated, Iran's Defence Minister Amir Hatami said today in a speech broadcast live on state television.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that British seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar constitutes a concrete example of "piracy" which has been done on behalf of the B-Team.

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

Britain's ambassador in Tehran, Rob Macaire, was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to explain the United Kingdom government's actions.

If Grace 1 wasn't going to Syria, its presence in the Mediterranean Sea would point toward a destination either in Southern Europe or North Africa. The target was somewhere else.

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The vessel likely carried just over 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil, the data firm Refinitv said.

Briefing reporters on Monday, Mousavi said the British Ambassador to Tehran had been summoned twice and there had been consultations with European diplomats regarding the issue. Hard-liners in Iran have demanded retaliatory measures, with the country's former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezaee last week claiming it was the country's "duty" to seize a British oil tanker.

Authorities in the British territory said the tanker can be held for up to 14 days. In November, the U.S. Treasury Department added a network of Russian and Iranian companies to its blacklist for shipping oil to Syria and warned of "significant risks" for those violating the sanctions.

The landmark accord offered Iran relief from global sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

These tensions came at a moment of negotiation between Iran and the European Union countries such as the UK, Germany and France, which are trying to keep Tehran tied to its nuclear deal. On July 1, it surpassed uranium stockpile limits set by the treaty, and on Sunday said it would begin enriching uranium beyond the permitted cap "within hours".

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