Iran called on Britain on Friday to immediately release an oil tanker that British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a foreign ministry spokesman told state news agency IRNA.
‘This is a dangerous game and has consequences ... the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid ... the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest,’ the spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said.
Iran has warned of reciprocal measures if the tanker is not released.
Britain is not seeking to escalate the situation with Iran, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Friday, as tensions continue between London and Tehran over a seized Iranian tanker and the passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.
Relations between Iran and the West have been increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar and London said the British Heritage, operated by oil company BP, had been approached by Iranian vessels in the strait between Iran and the Arabian peninsula.
‘We are reacting to what is happening in a measured and careful way and we are being clear to Iran that we are not seeking to escalate this situation,’ Jeremy Hunt told Sky News.
Gibraltar police said on Friday they had arrested the two second mates from the Iranian Grace 1 tanker which was detained last week on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
On Thursday, the captain and chief officer of the vessel were arrested.
‘All four men are Indian nationals and they have been granted full legal assistance,’ Gibraltar police said in a statement.
The Pentagon said Thursday it was discussing military escorts for vessels in the Gulf one day after armed Iranian boats threatened a British oil tanker.
The White House’s nominee to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said Washington was attempting to put together a coalition ‘in terms of providing military escort, naval escort to commercial shipping.’
Meanwhile, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards used drones and missiles to strike headquarters of a Kurdish militant group near Iran’s border with neighbouring Iraq’s Kurdistan region, the Iranian semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Friday.
‘A large number of terrorists were killed and wounded in the attacks that had started from Wednesday to target terrorist headquarters and their training camps,’ said the agency, citing a statement from the elite Guards.
A report from Tasnim in Arabic and a tweet in English from Iran’s Press TV described the strikes as taking place on the Iraqi side of the border. However, the full statement in Farsi said only that the strikes had taken place along the border.
The statement said the strikes were launched in retaliation for recent attacks by the group that killed at least five members of the Guards in northwest and western Iran.
‘The Iraqi Kurdistan government is expected to take Iran’s warnings seriously and not allow terrorists to use its territory as a shelter to train, organise and endanger Iran’s sustainable security by carrying out terrorist attacks,’ the statement said. ‘The Guards ... will respond harshly to any aggression against Iran’s security.’
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