Iran denies holding back British oil tanker
Britain says on Thursday three Iranian boats tried to impede the passage of a British oil tanker in Gulf waters, forcing UK warship HMS Montrose to intervene
Tehran: Iran's Revolutionary Guards denied on Thursday that they had impeded a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the force's Sepah news agency said. "There has been no confrontation in the last 24 hours with any foreign vessels, including British ones," the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement.
Britain said on Thursday three Iranian boats had attempted to "impede the passage" of a British oil tanker in Gulf waters, forcing UK warship HMS Montrose to intervene. The Guards' statement said that if they were ordered to seize foreign vessels they would do so "immediately, decisively and speedily". The incident follows the detention of an Iranian oil tanker by Britain on July 4 off the coast of Gibraltar, a tiny British overseas territory on Spain's southern tip.
The 330-metre (1,000-feet) Grace 1 tanker, capable of carrying two million barrels of oil, was halted by the police and customs in Gibraltar with the aid of a detachment of British Royal Marines.
Iran condemned the detention as an "illegal interception", but Gibraltar officials said the cargo was believed to be destined for Syria, which is subject to European sanctions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Britain on Wednesday of the "consequences" of what he described as "a foolish act". "I point out to the British that you initiated insecurity (on the seas) and you shall grasp the consequences of it later on,"
On Monday Iran's defence minister had vowed to respond to Britain's move. Calling the tanker seizure an act of maritime piracy, Brigadier-General Amir Hatami said it "will not be tolerated by us".
'US trying to worsen tensions'
Russia on Thursday blamed Washington for the escalation in tensions with Tehran after Britain said Iranian ships had attempted to impede a British oil tanker in Gulf waters. "The situation is very concerning," said Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, quoted by news agency RIA Novosti. "The reasons for this are clear. This is Washington's deliberate, premeditated course to exacerbate tensions."
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