Iran: Britain may soon release seized tanker

Iran: Britain may soon release seized tanker

"Britain is interested in releasing Iran's oil tanker Grace 1 ... following the exchange of some documents, we hope the release will take place soon", Jalal Eslami, the deputy head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency on Tuesday.

Gibraltar - a British overseas territory - seized the Grace 1 supertanker on July 4 with the help of British Royal Marines on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Earlier, a senior Gibraltarian government source denied Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency report that the tanker would be freed on August 13 in the evening.

On Tuesday the Gibraltar Government declined to be drawn on the reports from Iran about the vessel's release.

According to Iran's state news agency IRNA, Eslami said that the USA and the United Kingdom "have launched propaganda against Iran", referring to "Iran's seizing the United Kingdom oil tanker because of violating International Law of the Sea and US forming a coalition to escort ships in the Persian Gulf".

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Tehran rejected London's claim that the tanker was heading to Syria, slamming the seizure as "maritime piracy".

The UK will facilitate the release of the Iranian oil tanker detained by Gibraltar if Iran gave guarantees that the crude loaded on that vessel wasn't bound for Syria, the UK's then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said in the middle of July. U.S. oil sanctions have made many Iranian oil dealers unwilling to buy oil from the country.

In a further escalation of tensions, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Tehran would launch legal action over the vessel's alleged breaches of maritime law.

"We don't have any information at the moment", the representative said. Following the resumption of USA oil sanctions on Iran, some Iranian officials have warned that continued oil exports to other Gulf countries would be hard if Iranian oil exports were cut.

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