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IRGC Navy Seizes British Tanker in Persian Gulf

TEHRAN The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) announced in a statement issued on Friday evening that its naval forces have seized British tanker ship, 'Stena Impero', for violating maritime rules and regulations in the Persian Gulf.

"UK tanker ship, Stena Impero, has been detained by the vessels unit of the IRGC Navy's First Naval Zone at the request of the Ports and Maritime Organization's office of Hormuzgan province for disregarding international maritime rules and regulations as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz this afternoon," the statement by the IRGCN public relations said.

The statement said the ship has been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormuzgan province and its control has been transferred to the Ports and Maritime Organization for further legal procedures and investigations.

A statement by Stena Impero shipping firm said there are 23 crew onboard the UK ship, adding that there has been no report on any harm or injury to the crew members since the vessel came under detention by the Iranian forces.

Media reports said the tanker was heading to Saudi Arabia's port of Al-Jobail from the UAE port of Fujairah when it was detained by the IRGC.

Director-General of the Ports and Maritime Organization's office in Hurmuzgan province said he filed a request for the seizure of the British tanker by the IRGCN after reports on its risky moves that made the vessel prone to accident.

Meantime, sources told FNA that "the British ship had switched off its tracking systems in violation of maritime rules and regulations and was making an entry from the exit point of the Strait of Hormuz in the South, disregarding the established procedures that require all entries be made through the Northern pass.

In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized an Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo claimed that the ship was transporting crude oil to Syria in violation of the EU sanctions placed on Damascus. Washington has applauded the move, hailing it as a sign that Europe is on board with the US' unilateral sanctions against Iran.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the illegal move of London and described it as tantamount to piracy. Tehran accused the UK of doing Washington's bidding and helping the US attempt to stifle the Islamic Republic's oil exports, rejecting London's claim that the supertanker was carrying crude for Syria.

The attorney general announced on Friday that Gibraltar's supreme court has ruled that the Iranian tanker seized by Britain's Royal Marines can be detained for 30 more days. The court's decision came a day after a senior Gibraltar's official described as constructive talks with Iran, raising hopes that the tanker would be released imminently.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has slammed Britain's illegal seizure of the oil tanker, warning London of a pending response to the seizure of the supertanker that he referred to as a case of "piracy".

"They commit crimes and make it appear legal. The Islamic Republic and devout agents of the system will not leave such vicious acts without a response and they will respond in a proper opportunity and place," Ayatollah Khamenei stressed.

On Thursday, naval forces of the IRGC seized a foreign ship smuggling fuel in the Persian Gulf, according to a statement by the public relations office of the IRGC Navy's first zone. The foreign vessel was smuggling a million liters of fuel from Iran and was seized in Iranian waters South of Lark island.

Yet, a statement issued by the IRGC on Thursday denied that any other foreign ship had been seized during the last week as claimed by the western media.

The statement reiterated that the ship had been seized for "smuggling fuel from Iran", and no other reason.

The recent moves by foreign powers in the Middle East such as US sanctions on Tehran's oil, UK seizure of Iranian supertanker, as well as, "sabotage operations" on oil ships have intensified the turmoil in the region and the turmoil in the international energy market, affecting global crude prices in recent months.

Source: Fars News Agency