Published: Mon, August 05, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Iran seizes 'foreign' vessel in Persian Gulf

Iran seizes 'foreign' vessel in Persian Gulf

It is the third foreign tanker captured by Iran in the gulf over the past weeks.

Iranian naval forces have seized a foreign oil tanker in the Gulf that was accused of smuggling fuel to Arab countries, according to state media.

Washington and Tehran have been locked in a standoff since President Trump withdrew the USA from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions against Iran created to force them back to the negotiating table. Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

The Iraq ship was carrying about 185,000 gallons of fuel, the report said, but it did not provide additional details or identify the nationality of the crew. Iran has denied any involvement in those attacks.

On July 18, a day before the Stena Impero seizing, the Revolutionary Guards said they detained the Panama-flagged MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling.

The news agency reported that the ship was seized near Farsi Island, where an Iranian Guard Navy base is located. One of the ships had links with the United Arab Emirates while another one was a British-flagged vessel.

The move came days after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar over suspicions it violated European Union sanctions.

At the height of the crisis, US President Donald Trump called off airstrikes against Iran at the last minute in June after the Islamic republic's forces shot down a US drone. Iran recently began openly breaching limits set by the nuclear agreement, saying it can not abide by the deal unless European signatories provide some kind of economic relief.

Tensions have been brewing in the Gulf region since Iran seized a UK-flagged oil tanker last month citing violations of maritime rules.

Maritime security around the Persian Gulf is of worldwide importance. Iran also uses the strait for its exports.

Ranjith Raja, a senior analyst at data firm Refinitiv, said this latest seized ship by Iran could be a barge or supply vessel rather than a commercial merchant tanker based on the amount of fuel it was allegedly transporting.

"For a government to constantly claim (to favour) negotiations and afterwards sanction the foreign minister. if this is not ridiculous, then what is it?" said foreign ministry spokesman Ali Rabiei.

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