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Sun, Oct 20, 2019 3:10 AM
Sat, Jul 20, 2019 5:05

Seizure of British ship a 'reciprocal' move: Iran

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A powerful council in Iran said Saturday the country's seizure of a British oil tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz was in response to Britain's role in impounding an Iranian supertanker two weeks earlier.

A powerful council in Iran said Saturday the country's seizure of a British oil tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz was in response to Britain's role in impounding an Iranian supertanker two weeks earlier.

Spokesman of Iran's Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was quoted in the semi-official Fars news agency saying "the rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law" and that Iran's moves to "confront the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers is an instance of this rule and is based on international rights."

The council rarely comments on state matters, but when it does it is seen as a reflection of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's views.

That's because the council works closely with Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.

The British-flagged Stena Impero with 23 crew aboard was seized by Iran late Friday. Maritime trackers show it was headed to a port in Saudi Arabia.

On July 4, Britain's Royal Marines took part in the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker carrying more than 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil by Gibraltar, a British overseas territory off the southern coast of Spain. Officials there initially said the seizure happened on orders from the U.S.

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

However, on Friday, a court in Gibraltar extended by 30 days the detention of the Panama-flagged Grace.

The state-run news agency IRNA had reported earlier Saturday that Iran had seized the British-flagged vessel late Friday after it rammed an Iranian fishing vessel — an explanation that portrayed the seizure as a technicality rather than a tit-for-tat move in the current tense climate.

In London, Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of Britain's House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said military action to free the tanker would be "extremely unwise," especially because the vessel was apparently taken to a well-protected port.

Tensions between Iran and the West had been rising since May, when the U.S. announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and additional troops to the Middle East, citing unspecified threats posed by Iran.

The ongoing showdown has caused jitters around the globe, with each maneuver bringing fear that any misunderstanding or misstep by either side could lead to war.

The seizing of the tanker late Friday was seen as a significant escalation.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt initially said two ships were seized in the Strait of Hormuz, the second sailing under a Liberian flag.

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