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Teheran ready for 'different scenarios'

China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-22 09:27

Iran responds to UK sanctions threat over seizure of a British-flagged ship

The Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

DUBAI - Iran on Sunday urged the United Kingdom to contain "domestic political forces" as tensions escalated between the two countries following Iran's seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker.

The UK has called Iran's capture of the Stena Impero in the Gulf on Friday a "hostile act" and rejected Teheran's explanation that it seized the vessel because it had been involved in an accident.

The "UK government should contain those domestic political forces who want to escalate existing tension between Iran and the UK well beyond the issue of ships. This is quite dangerous and unwise at a sensitive time in the region", Iran's envoy to Britain Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter.

"Iran however is firm and ready for different scenarios," he said.

A day earlier British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said Teheran's actions showed "worrying signs Iran may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior after Gibraltar's legal detention of oil bound for Syria".

The crew of the tanker seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guards are all safe, the head of the Ports and Maritime Affairs of Hormuzgan province told Iran's state TV on Sunday.

"All 23 crew members aboard the ship are safe and in good health in Bandar Abbas port," Allahmorad Afifipour said.

Afifipour said the seized tanker "risked maritime safety" in the Strait of Hormuz.

"We are required by regulations to investigate the issue... the duration of the investigation depends on the level of cooperation by the involved parties," said Afifipour.

The seizure has heightened tension between Iran and Britain, which is a party to Iran's 2015 multinational nuclear deal. The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday that London was planning to target Iran with sanctions in the aftermath of the tanker seizure.

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council, the UK said the tanker was approached by Iranian forces in Omani territorial waters where it was exercising its lawful right of passage, and that the action "constitutes illegal interference".

Stena Bulk, the vessel's Sweden-based owners, said it is preparing a formal request to visit the crew, who are from India, Latvia, the Philippines and Russia. India has called on Iran to release the 18 Indian crew members.

Teheran for weeks has vowed to retaliate for the seizure by Royal Marines of the tanker Grace 1 carrying Iranian oil near Gibraltar on July 4. It was suspected of violating sanctions on Syria.

"The Revolutionary Guards responded to Britain's hijacking of the Iranian tanker," Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani told a parliament session aired live on state radio.

The spokesman for Iran's Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was also quoted in the semiofficial Fars news agency describing Friday's seizure as a legal "reciprocal action".

The seizure drew condemnation from European signatories to Iran's nuclear accord with world powers. Germany and France both called on Iran to immediately release the ship and its crew, with Berlin saying the seizure undermines all efforts to find a way out of the current crisis.

Oman also called on Sunday for the release of the tanker and urged London and Teheran "to resolve their differences through diplomatic channels".

Europe has struggled to contain the tensions that stem from US President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States from Iran's nuclear deal, which had lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for compliance on its nuclear program.

Trump has since reimposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports, and Iran recently increased uranium enrichment levels beyond limits of the deal in a bid to pressure Europe into finding a workaround the crippling economic sanctions.


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