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US Seeks to Seize Iranian Oil Tanker in Gibraltar

TEHRAN The United States has applied to seize the Iranian Grace 1 oil tanker in Gibraltar commandeered by British Royal Marines in the Mediterranean last month, The Gibraltar Chronicle reported.

The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar, just hours before the Gibraltar Government was poised to release it, the newspaper said.

The application means that a decision on the fate of Grace 1 will not be made until later on Thursday, the daily added.

The grounds for the US application are not clear, but the court was told it was a request from the Department of Justice for mutual legal assistance.

Later, the Gibraltar government confirmed the report, saying in a statement that the US Department of Justice has applied to seize the [Iranian tanker] Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered.

The statement added that the matter will return to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar at 4 pm.

Commenting on the issue, a source in the Gibraltar government told the paper that a captain and three crew members of the Iranian tanker have already been released.

The developments come after The Sun newspaper reported on Wednesday that Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo will not apply to renew the order to detain the Grace 1 and that the tanker was due to be released on Thursday.

British Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, announced that it is unable to comment of the fate of the detained Iranian tanker in Gibraltar.

Hawkish US National Security Adviser John Bolton had two days of meetings in London this week with key figures in Boris Johnson's government, as the US pitches to steer a post-Brexit UK further away from Europe on a range of issues including the Iran nuclear deal and the role of the Chinese technology firm Huawei.

Britain had also announced plans to join a US-led maritime security mission in the Persian Gulf.

On Tuesday, Gibraltar announced it plans to de-escalate tensions with Iran over the seizure of Grace 1 supertanker, reinvigorating hopeful speculations that it might release the large vessel soon.

Gibraltar stated it was seeking to de-escalate issues arising with Iran since the detention of the Grace 1 tanker 40 days ago.

In early July, British marines and Gibraltar police seized the Iranian tanker off the Southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Picardo had 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.

Iran 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 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