Published: Wed, August 21, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Iran tanker breaks down in Red Sea near Saudi Arabia

Iran tanker breaks down in Red Sea near Saudi Arabia

The Iranian oil tanker left Gibraltar over the weekend after a month in British detention and is now heading towards the Greek port of Kalamata.

Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said Athens is under pressure from USA authorities, which claim the Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1 is tied to a sanctioned organization.

Varvitsiotis says the tanker is too big for any Greek port and can't legally unload its $130 million worth of light crude at European Union refineries.

Iran and its arch-foe the United States have been at loggerheads since the President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from a landmark nuclear deal previous year and began reimposing sanctions against the Islamic republic.

The tanker, now sailing under an Iranian flag, was allowed to leave Gibraltarian waters on Sunday night after the British Overseas Territory's courts rejected a last-minute warrant from the United States seeking its fresh seizure.

Gibraltar also said Iran provided assurances the tanker wouldn't unload its cargo in Syria.

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"We have conveyed our strong position to the Greek government on the matter, as well as ports in the Mediterranean that should be forewarned about facilitating this vessel", it said in a statement Monday.

On Tuesday, the tanker's destination was reported by Marine Traffic, a maritime tracking website, to be the Greek port of Kalamata on the Peloponnese peninsula.

Greek authorities said they have not received any official information about the tanker coming to Kalamata. But Tehran showed no sign of adopting a conciliatory stance after Washington made it clear it still wants to seize the vessel.

Greece is anxious not to endanger its strategic ties with the US, to which it looks for support against neighboring Turkey's oil and gas prospecting ventures off Greece's Aegean Sea islands and Cyprus, or with Israel.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday that the United States would take every action it could to prevent the tanker sailing in the Mediterranean from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of US sanctions. Asked what would happen if the vessel entered Greek territorial waters and dropped anchor, he said: 'In that case we will see what will happen'. Varvitsiotis said Athens has had no communication with Tehran on the tanker.

It is standard practice for a vessel to give 48 hours' notice before docking at a port, Greek officials said.

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