Mon, Jul 22, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Crew of seized British-flagged tanker safe

‘HOSTILE ACT’:After it was reported that the UK plans to target Iran with sanctions, the British foreign secretary said that the UK’s response would ‘be considered but robust’

AP and Reuters, TEHRAN and DUBAI

An image taken from a video provided by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps official Web site via Sepah News on Saturday allegedly shows Revolutionary Guard Corps boarding the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz.

Photo: AFP / Iran’s Revolutionary Guard via Sepah News

The crew of the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps are all safe, an Iranian maritime official told state television yesterday.

“All 23 crew members aboard the ship are safe and in good health in Bandar Abbas port,” said Allahmorad Afifipour, the head of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran in Hormozgan Province.

The UK has denounced Iran’s seizure of the oil tanker on Friday as a “hostile act,” rejecting Tehran’s explanation that it had seized the vessel because it had been involved in an accident.

The seizure was a response to the UK’s role in impounding an Iranian supertanker first, senior British officials said Saturday, as newly released video of the incident showed Iranian commandos in black ski masks and fatigues rappelling from a helicopter onto the vessel in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The UK, a party to Iran’s 2015 multinational nuclear deal, is planning to target Iran with sanctions in the aftermath of the tanker seizure, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday.

British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt said that the UK’s response “will be considered but robust.”

In comments on Twitter on Saturday, he said he spoke with Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif and expressed extreme disappointment that the Iranian diplomat had assured him Iran wanted to de-escalate the situation, but “they have behaved in the opposite way.”

Speaking to reporters later on Saturday after an emergency government meeting, Hunt said the “totally and utterly unacceptable” interception of the Stena Impero “raises very serious questions about the security of British shipping and indeed international shipping” in the strait.

The free flow of traffic through the strait is of international importance, because one-fifth of all global crude exports pass through the waterway from Middle East exporters to countries around the world.

Stena Bulk, the Sweden-based firm that owns the vessel, said that it was preparing a formal request to visit the crew, who are from India, Latvia, the Philippines and Russia.

Iran had asked that a formal request be made for the visit, Stena said in a statement.

Stena Bulk said the vessel was stopped by “unidentified small crafts and a helicopter” during its transit through the strait.

In a dramatic video released by the Revolutionary Guard, several small boats can be seen surrounding the larger tanker as it moves through the strait.

Above, a military helicopter hovers and then several men wearing black masks begin to rappel onto the ship.

The video was shot with at least two cameras, one from a speed boat-like vessel and one from the chopper, which captured the fatigue-clad men as they prepared to slide down a rope and also took aerial footage of the tanker.

Hunt said the ship’s seizure shows worrying signs Iran might be choosing a dangerous and destabilizing path.

He also defended the British-assisted seizure of Iran’s supertanker on July 4 as a “legal” move, because the vessel was suspected of breaching EU sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.

Iranian officials “see this as a tit-for-tat situation, following Grace 1 being detained in Gibraltar. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Hunt said later on Saturday.

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