Iran says it seized British tanker, denies U.S. brought down drone

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran stated it had seized a British oil tanker within the Strait of Hormuz on Friday however denied Washington’s assertion that the U.S. Navy had downed an Iranian drone close by this week, as tensions within the Gulf area rose once more.

Britain stated it was urgently looking for details about the Stena Impero tanker, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and all of a sudden modified course after passing by means of the strait on the mouth of the Gulf.

The tanker’s operator, Stena Bulk, stated in an announcement the ship was not underneath the crew’s management and couldn’t be contacted.

Iran’s state information company IRNA quoted a army supply as saying the vessel had turned off its tracker, ignored warnings from the Revolutionary Guards and was crusing within the flawed course in a delivery lane.

“We will respond in a way that is considered but robust and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt instructed reporters.

Hunt stated Britain was “not looking at military options, we are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation.”

Stena Bulk stated the ship was “in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations.”

“There are 23 seafarers onboard of Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino nationality,” stated Erik Hanell, president and chief govt of Stena Bulk. He stated there had been no reported accidents.

The Revolutionary Guards didn’t seize a second tanker – the British-operated, Liberian-flagged ship Mesdar – within the Gulf, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim information company reported, quoting regional army sources.

The Mesdar had turned sharply north towards Iran’s coast on Friday afternoon however then modified course once more and headed westward away from Iran, based on Refinitiv monitoring information.

Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened final 12 months when U.S. President Donald Trump deserted a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. Under the pact, Iran agreed to limit nuclear work, lengthy seen by the West as a canopy for creating atomic bombs, in return for lifting sanctions. But sanctions have been imposed once more, badly hurting Iran’s financial system.

Trump stated he would speak to Britain about Friday’s seizure, which drove oil costs up above $62 a barrel.

The United States has blamed Iran for a sequence of assaults since mid-May on delivery across the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran rejects the allegations.

The incidents have elevated worldwide concern that each side might blunder right into a conflict within the strategic waterway, which is important to world oil provides.

GRAPHIC: Map of tanker’s route –

Tanker assaults close to oil chokepoint –


Iran shot down a U.S. drone within the Gulf in June and British naval forces seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar on July four on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria.

Undated handout exhibits the Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, at an undisclosed location, obtained by Reuters on July 19, 2019. Stena Bulk/through REUTERS

The U.S. army stated on Friday that unarmed surveillance plane have been in worldwide airspace, monitoring the Strait of Hormuz and had been involved with U.S. ships within the space.

“We have patrol aircraft operating in international airspace monitoring the situation within the Strait of Hormuz,” stated Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.

A U.S. official, talking on situation of anonymity, stated about 500 U.S. army personnel can be deployed to Saudi Arabia, a part of a rise in troops to the Middle East introduced by the Pentagon final month.

Iran refuted a U.S. assertion that it shot down an Iranian drone on Thursday within the Strait of Hormuz as a result of it had come too near a U.S. warship.

Trump stated on Thursday that the U.S. Navy warship Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, had destroyed an Iranian drone as a result of it had flown to inside 1,000 yards (914 meters) of the ship in a “provocative and hostile action.” A U.S. official stated the drone was brought down by digital jamming.

“No doubt about it, no. We shot it down,” Trump stated.

He stated the United States hopes “for their sake they don’t do anything foolish. If they do they will pay a price like nobody has ever paid a price.”

But Iran stated all of its drones have been accounted for.

“All drones belonging to Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz … returned safely to their bases after their mission of identification and control,” Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior Iranian armed forces spokesman, was quoted by Tasnim as saying.

He stated there was no report of any “operational response” by the Boxer and Iran’s state tv broadcast a video displaying aerial views of ships that it stated disproved the U.S. declare.

Slideshow (four Images)

The tv station stated the footage, which got here from the Revolutionary Guards, and the timing notations indicated the pilotless plane was nonetheless filming after Washington stated it had been downed.

U.S. officers briefed members of the Washington diplomatic corps on Friday about a multinational maritime safety initiative being developed to de-escalate tensions within the Gulf.

A senior Pentagon instructed Reuters earlier this week the United States was not aiming to arrange a army coalition towards Iran however merely “shining a flashlight” within the area to discourage assaults on industrial ships.

Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; extra reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington, Reuters employees in Dubai and Kate Holton and Jonathan Saul in London; writing by Alistair Bell; enhancing by Grant McCool, Cynthia Osterman and Sonya Hepinstall

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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