Rouhani warns of ‘repercussions’ over British detention of oil tanker
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Rouhani warns of ‘repercussions’ over British detention of oil tanker

Iran continues to threaten UK over ‘mean and wrong’ seizure of ship said to be carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, says London to blame for insecurity in region

President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, July 3, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, July 3, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Tehran said Wednesday that Britain would face “repercussions” over the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker after denying earlier in the week that the ship detained in Gibraltar was carrying crude to Syria, which would put it in violation of EU sanctions.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as calling the seizure “mean and wrong” during a Cabinet meeting.

He warned London: “You are an initiator of insecurity and you will understand its repercussions,” without elaborating.

On Tuesday, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, said that Iran would respond if necessary to the ship’s detention.

“Capture of the Iranian oil tanker based on fabricated excuses … will not be unanswered and when necessary Tehran will give appropriate answer,” Bagheri said.

The Grace 1 super tanker in the British territory of Gibraltar, July 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcos Moreno)

On Friday Tehran threatened to seize a British tanker if the UK doesn’t release the Iranian ship.

The 330-meter (1,000-feet) Grace 1, capable of carrying 2 million barrels of oil, was halted in the early hours of Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain’s southern tip at the western entrance to the Mediterranean.

The ship was detained 2.5 miles (four kilometers) south of Gibraltar in what Britain claims as its waters, although Spain, which lays claim to the territory, says they are Spanish.

Tehran said Sunday that the ship was not headed for Syria.

“The tanker was carrying Iran’s oil… Contrary to what the British government claims, its destination was not Syria,” said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi at a press conference in Tehran.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, who is also a senior nuclear negotiator, speaks with media in his press conference in Tehran, Iran, on January 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“The port named in Syria does not even have the capacity for such a supertanker to dock. Its destination was somewhere else,” he added.

Araghchi said the tanker was crossing the Strait of Gibraltar because its “high capacity” meant “it was not possible for it to pass through the Suez Canal.”

He insisted the tanker was intercepted in international waters and accused Britain’s Royal Navy of committing “maritime piracy.”

The tanker’s detention came at a sensitive time in Iran-EU ties, as the bloc mulls how to respond to Tehran breaching the uranium enrichment limit it agreed to in the troubled 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran is currently following “the legal path through court” but hopes the issue can be resolved by “ongoing diplomatic consultations,” Araghchi added.

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