Iran says tanker seized by British marines was not travelling to Syria

Iran says oil tanker seized by British marines was not travelling to Syria and vows to take ‘legal and diplomatic’ action against the UK

  • UK seized tanker last week and said it was violating EU sanctions against Syria
  • But Iran says the Grace 1 supertanker could not have been headed there, because the country does not have a port large enough to dock it
  • Iran’s foreign ministry said it is pursuing legal and political action against the UK 
  • Tehran believes Britain actually seized the tanker on orders from America, which has issued separate sanctions against its regime

Iran has denied that an oil tanker seized by Britain off the coast of Gibraltar last week was travelling to Syria. 

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said that no port in Syria is capable of docking the vessel – a 1,000ft long supertanker – and it was therefore not violating EU sanctions, as Britain has claimed.

Separately, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry said the country is pursuing political, legal and diplomatic actions against the UK.

Iran has denied that the Grace 1 supertanker seized by Britain near Gibraltar last week was heading for Syria, and was therefore not violating EU sanctions (tanker pictured Saturday)

Tehran says that Syria does not have a port large enough to dock the 1,000ft vessel, and demanded the immediate return of its property

Iran’s Defence Minister Amir Hatami described the seizure as ‘maritime robbery’ on Monday and said it ‘will not be tolerated’.

In a speech broadcast on public television, Hatami said: ‘These days we witnessed a threatening act from the government of England in the Strait of Gibraltar against a tanker from the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

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

Iran has not suggested where the vessel was actually headed, and British officials have yet to disclose the evidence they say shows the tanker was bound for Syria.

Bashar al-Assad, the dictator who rules over Syria, is a close ally of Tehran and the country has been suffering oil shortages.  

Iran has accused Britain of seizing the tanker on order from the US, which brought in sanctions against Iran last year after President Trump tore up a nuclear deal. 

European leaders have held back on following suit in an attempt to save the treaty. 

The ship is currently being held in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, where the crew are being questioned to determine its final destination

Britain says it was acting in accordance with EU sanctions when it seized the boat, but Iran believes it acted on behalf of the US which has its own sanctions against Tehran

Spain’s acting foreign minister Josep Borrell also accused the UK of doing Washington’s bidding, and said Spain will investigate the tanker seizure because it took place in waters it considers its own. 

The Grace 1 tanker is currently being held in Gibraltar while they crew are interviewed to try and establish the final destination of the vessel. 

Authorities in the British territory said the tanker can be held for up to 14 days. 

Iran has not said exactly what steps it will take against Britain, but a Revolutionary Guards commander has threatened to seize a UK ship in retaliation. 

Hatami said Iran’s downing of an unmanned American aircraft last month sent a message that the Islamic Republic 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.

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