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Iran warns UK against escalating tensions, says crew of seized ship safe

Britain has called Iran's capture of the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday a "hostile act"

Reuters  |  Dubai 

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK
Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the UK

Iran’s ambassador to Britain warned against escalating tensions on Sunday as a UK official declined to rule out sanctions in response to Tehran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker.

Britain has called Iran’s capture of the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday a “hostile act”.

Britain needs to contain “those domestic political forces who want to escalate existing tension between and the UK well beyond the issue of ships,” Iran’s envoy to Britain Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter.

“This is quite dangerous and unwise at a sensitive time in the region,” he said, adding that “is firm and ready for different scenarios.” Britain’s junior defence minister Tobias Ellwood did not rule out the possibility of targeting Tehran with sanctions in response.

“Our first and most important responsibility is to make sure that we get a solution to the issue to do with the current ship, make sure other British-flagged ships are safe to operate in these waters and then look at the wider picture,” Ellwood told Sky News.

Asked about the possibility of sanctions, he said: “We will be speaking with our colleagues, our allies, to see what can actually be done.” Tehran’s seizure of the Stena Impero followed the July 4 capture by Royal Marines of the Grace 1 tanker carrying Iranian oil near Gibraltar.

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Saturday said Tehran’s actions showed “worrying signs may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour after Gibraltar’s legal detention of oil bound for Syria.”

In a letter to the UN Security Council, Britain said the Stena Impero 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.” British warship HMS Montrose radioed an Iranian patrol vessel to warn it against boarding the Stena Impero, according to radio messages provided to Reuters by maritime security firm Dryad Global.

Iran said the seized tanker “risked maritime safety” in the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s annual oil consumption passes. “We are required by regulations to investigate the issue ... the duration of the investigation depends on the level of cooperation by the involved parties,” Allahmorad Afifipour, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation in Hormozgan Province said.

He added that all 23 crew members aboard the ship are “safe and in good health in Bandar Abbas port”.

The vessel’s Sweden-based owner, Stena Bulk, said it hoped to visit the crew, who are from India, Latvia, the Philippines and Russia. India has called on Iran to release the ship’s 18 Indian crew members.

First Published: Mon, July 22 2019. 02:39 IST
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