Gulf tensions: Iranian tanker sought by US heads to unknown destination

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 19 August 2019, 06:58 AM
The vessel’s next destination was not immediately known
The vessel’s next destination was not immediately known

An Iranian super tanker that the US suspects to be tied to a sanctioned organization hauling US dollar 130 million worth of light crude oil has lifted its anchor and begun moving away from Gibraltar. “The tanker slowly steered southeast toward a narrow stretch of international waters separating Morocco and the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula,” according to news agency AP. Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, had earlier announced on Twitter that the ship was expected to leave Sunday night.

The vessel had been detained for a month in the British overseas territory for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria. Gibraltar authorities rejected an eleventh-hour attempt by the United States’ to reseize the oil tanker, arguing that EU regulations are less strict than US sanctions on Iran.

The vessel’s next destination was not immediately known.

Earlier, Iran had seized a foreign tanker in the Gulf, in what would be the third such seizure in a month amid heightened tensions with its foe the United States. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “seized this ship around Farsi Island which was carrying around 700,000 litres of smuggled fuel”, said a Guards statement quoted by the official news agency IRNA.

Ships have been attacked, drones downed, and oil tankers seized since May, a year after the United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and began re-imposing biting sanctions against the country.

At the height of the crisis, US President Donald Trump called off air strikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic’s forces shot down a US drone.

The seizure of the latest tanker would be the third by Iran in less than a month in Gulf waters—a conduit for much of the world’s crude oil.

On July 18, the Guards said they had detained the Panama-flagged for MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling.

And a day later, they announced they had impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking “international maritime rules”.

The identity of the latest vessel seized and the nationality of its crew had not yet been revealed on Sunday.

The Guards said their boats had been patrolling the Gulf to control traffic and detect illicit trade when they seized the tanker.

First Published: Monday, August 19, 2019 06:58 AM

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