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Iran demands Britain release oil tanker seized off Gibraltar

In this image from file video provided by UK Ministry of Defence, British navy vessel HMS Montrose escorts another ship during a mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria at sea off coast of Cyprus in February 2014. The British Navy said it intercepted an attempt on Thursday, July 11, 2019, by three Iranian paramilitary vessels to impede the passage of a British commercial vessel just days after Iran’s president warned of repercussions for the seizure of its own supertanker. A U.K. government statement said Iranian vessels only turned away after receiving “verbal warnings” from the HMS Montrose accompanying the commercial ship through the narrow Strait of Hormuz. (UK Ministry of Defence via AP)
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Friday demanded the British navy release an Iranian oil tanker seized last week off Gibraltar, accusing London of playing a “dangerous game.”

The comments from Iran’s Foreign Ministry come a day after police in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, said they arrested the captain and chief officer of the supertanker suspected of breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told Iranian state news agency IRNA that “the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest.”

The tanker’s interception on July 4 has stoked already high tensions in the region, as the Trump administration continues its campaign of maximum pressure on Iran.

The British navy said Thursday it had stopped three Iranian paramilitary vessels from disrupting the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf. The brief but tense standoff stemmed from the U.K.’s role in seizing the Iranian tanker.

Iran recently began surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the accord a year ago. He also has re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.