Published: Sat, July 20, 2019
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

Iran Says Its Seizure of British Ship Was a 'Reciprocal' Move

Iran Says Its Seizure of British Ship Was a 'Reciprocal' Move

Iran condemned the move as "piracy" and summoned Britain's ambassador in protest over it. Mohsen Rezaei had called for the reciprocal seizure of a British oil tanker in case London refused to release the vessel.

Tanker tracking service Marine Traffic showed that the Swedish-owned Stena Impero last signalled its location near the island of Larak at 9:00 PM local time (1630 GMT).

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saturday that the decision to detain the Stena Impero "shows worrying signs Iran may be choosing a unsafe path of illegal and destabilizing behavior".

Iran said the ship was "violating global maritime rules".

But Friday afternoon, Iranian news agencies reported the Revolutionary Guard had seized at least one British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz.

The vessel was in full compliance with all navigation and global regulations, it said.

Britain has said it would release the vessel if Iran could prove it was not breaching European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.

Stena Impero owner Stena Bulk said in a statement that it "can confirm that... our managed vessel Stena Impero was attacked by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter while transiting the Strait of Hormuz while the vessel was in global waters".

Iran's Revolutionary Guard on patrol with an Iranian naval vessel during manoeuvres in the Gulf Sea and Sea of Oman.

The incidents have jolted the shipping industry, with some of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region on high alert and many ordering their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed.

The government's emergency committee, Cobra, met in Whitehall twice on Friday in response to the crisis.

"We have advised United Kingdom shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period", the spokeswoman added.

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"These seizures are unacceptable".

Hunt warned that "if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences".

"They look for things that are proportional in nature", Lt. Gen Robert P. Ashley Jr., the top military intelligence officer, said in a discussion with journalists at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. "But we are very clear that it must be resolved".

"The tanker is now at Iran's Bandar Abbas port and all its23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over". "Escalation risks a slide into an even deeper conflict".

Trump added: "This only goes to show what I'm saying about Iran: Trouble, nothing but trouble".

Central Command said the USA has intensified air patrols over the Strait of Hormuz in response to the seizure.

US National Security Council Spokesman Garrett Marquis said the also aware of the reports.

The Trump administration has accused Iran of being behind a string of incidents, including attacks and harassment against commercial shipping, that have contributed to the rising tensions in the region as the United States sets about squeezing Iran with tighter sanctions. There have also been attacks on oil tankers in recent weeks that the US blames on Iran - an allegation denied by the Islamic Republic.

Before the British ship was seized, Iran and the United States disagreed over Washington's claim that a U.S. warship downed the Iranian drone.

"We have learned with great concern of the seizure of a British vessel by Iranian forces", France's foreign ministry said.

The vessel, carrying no cargo, was taken to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

Were the wider potential consequences adequately examined?

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