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Judiciary Chief Warns Britain of Consequences of Holding Iran’s Oil Tanker

TEHRAN Iran's Judiciary Chief Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi blasted Britain for continued seizure of the country's oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar, warning London of its dire consequences.

"It seems that the British and Europeans are well aware of the Islamic Republic's possibilities and capacities and therefore, it will be beneficial to them to stop seizure of the oil tanker as soon as possible, otherwise, they should wait for its consequences," Rayeesi said, addressing the judiciary officials in Tehran on Monday.

He also lashed out at the Europeans, specially London, for keeping mum about the ISIL terrorist group's plundering of Iraq and Syria's oil, asking Britain why the Iranian oil tanker has been seized as it was passing through the Strait of Gibraltar legally and while it was respecting all international laws.

On early Thursday morning, British Royal Marines in Gibraltar stormed the Iran-operated supertanker Grace 1 off the coast of Gibraltar, seizing the 300,000-tonne vessel based on the accusation that it was carrying oil to Syria in possible violation of the European Union's sanctions on the war-torn Arab country.

According to Gibraltar authorities, the 28 crewmembers, who are nationals of India, Pakistan and Ukraine, are currently staying aboard the tanker, along with local police and customs officers boarding the vessel for a period of a probe.

Iran has condemned the move as maritime piracy and summoned Britain's ambassador in protest. It has vowed to employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

Spain's acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell stated on Friday that Madrid was planning to lodge a formal complaint against the UK and was studying the circumstances and looking at how the incident is affecting its sovereignty.

Spain, which challenges the British ownership of Gibraltar, has announced the seizure was prompted by a US request to Britain and appeared to have taken place in Spanish waters.

However, the British-claimed overseas territory rejected the claim, saying that Gibraltar had acted independently.

Gibraltar's position comes as a British foreign office spokesman had welcomed the move on Thursday, describing it as a firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria Sanctions regime.

The seizure of the Panama-registered Grace 1 comes as the US has pledged to cut Iran's oil exports to zero as part of the sanctions that it has reinstated after leaving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year, and many analysts take London's move as an indicator that the UK is not committed to the nuclear agreement and is much on the side of Washington in Trump's anti-Iran maximum pressure campaign.

In relevant remarks on Monday, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami blasted London for the seizure of the supertanker, warning that Tehran will not tolerate the British piracy.

"These days, we have witnessed a provocative move by the British government against an oil tanker of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Gibraltar which is against the international rules and the European states' nuclear deal undertakings and it is a type of maritime piracy," General Hatami said in the Southern port city of Bandar Abbas.

He referred to Iran's extensive measures to fight against pirates in international waters, and said, "This type of maritime piracy by Britain will not be tolerated by Iran."

Source: Fars News Agency