July 12, 2019
DUBAI: Britain said Thursday that three Iranian vessels unsuccessfully tried to impede the passage of a British commercial vessel through the Strait of Hormuz, signaling a further escalation of tensions over a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
The Iranian vessels only turned away after receiving “verbal warnings” from a UK navy vessel accompanying the commercial vessel British Heritage, the UK government said in a statement. “We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to deescalate the situation in the region,” it said.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard denied the allegations, saying if it had received orders to seize any ships, it would have executed them immediately.
The semi-official Fars news agency carried a statement from the Guard’s navy early Thursday, saying “there were no clashes with alien boats, especially English boats.”
The incident was reported a day after Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned that Britain will face “repercussions” over the seizure of an Iranian supertanker last week that authorities in Gibraltar suspect was breaching European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.
Rouhani was quoted by Iranian state media as saying the seizure was “mean and wrong.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied the supertanker belonged to Iran, saying whoever owned the oil shipment and the vessel could pursue the case through legal avenues.
Iran had earlier summoned the British ambassador over what it called the “illegal interception” of the ship.
It marked the latest escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf over the nuclear deal.
Since Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord, the restoration of heavy sanctions on Iran, including its oil industry, has exacerbated an economic crisis that has sent the currency plummeting. AP/AFP
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