(TEHRAN, Iran.) JUST IN: Iran has taken a British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero seized in the Strait of Ho rmuz on Friday night and taken to a nearby port, where the vessel and its crew will remain while an accident with a fishing boat it was involved in is investigated, Iran’s Fars news agency said on Saturday #A ceNewsDesk reports

#AceNewsReport – July.20: The Stena Impero was in collision with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored, the agency quoted the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, as saying: With the seizure inflaming already fraught relations between Iran and the West, Britain’s foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said he was worried that Tehran’s action had put it on a “dangerous path” ……Afifipour said the vessel had been taken under the guidance of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards to Bander Abbas port, situated on Iran’s southern coast and facing the strait.

GRAPHIC: Map of tanker’s route – tmsnrt.rs/2O646ZX

“All its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over,” he was quoted as saying: They comprised 18 Indians and five others of other nationalities, he said: Operator Stena Bulk said on Friday the tanker had been “in full compliance with all navigation and international regulations”, but was no longer under the crew’s control and could not be contacted. It had no further comment early on Saturday.

Hunt said on Saturday that Britain would ensure the safety of its shipping, and that there were signs that Iran “may be choosing a dangerous path of illegal and destabilizing behavior after Gibraltar’s legal detention of oil bound for Syria.” Hunt reiterated that the response to the Stena Impero’s seizure would be “considered but robust”. He had said on Friday that Britain was however “not looking at military options. We are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation.”

The vessel had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf, through which a fifth of the world’s oil supplies pass.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would talk to Britain about Friday’s seizure, which drove oil prices up above $62 a barrel: The United States has blamed Iran for a series of attacks since mid-May on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran rejects the allegations.

The Stena Impero was seized on Friday by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard: The tanker was surrounded by four vessels and a helicopter before heading into Iranian waters, Mr Hunt said.He described the seizures as “completely unacceptable” and said “freedom of navigation must be maintained”.”We are not looking at military options,” he added. “We are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve this situation.”Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said the tanker was seized after it collided with a fishing boat and failed to respond to calls from the smaller craft: The vessel’s owners said it was fully complying with regulations and was in international waters when it was approached: It said there no reported injuries among the 23 crew members, who are Indian, Russian, Latvian and Filipino: A UK government spokeswoman told the BBC: “We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.”

The latest developments come amid a deterioration in relations between Iran and the UK and US: Tensions between the US and Iran have risen sharply since April, when the US tightened sanctions it had reimposed on Iran after unilaterally withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal: The US blamed Iran for attacks on tankers in the world’s key shipping area since May. Tehran denies all the accusations: On Friday, the US claimed to have destroyed an Iranian drone in the Gulf: Unlike the US, the UK government remains committed to the landmark nuclear deal, which curbs Iran’s nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions tensions: However, the UK infuriated Iran after its Royal Marines helped seize an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar earlier this month: On Friday, Gibraltar granted a 30-day extension to allow authorities to continue detaining the tanker, which was suspected of carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

In retaliation for the seizure of Grace 1, Iran threatened to seize a British oil tanker:

A White House National Security Council spokesman said the latest incident was the second time in just over a week the UK had been “the target of escalatory violence” by Iran: US President Donald Trump has responded to the developments by saying he would talk to the UK.

Map showing the two tankers' routes through the Strait of HormuzPresentational white space

And US Central Command said it was developing a multinational maritime effort in response to the situation: The US military said it wanted to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Oman.

#AceNewsDesk reports ……………Published: July.20: 2019: BBC News & Reuters

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