Iran’s IRGC Navy Rejects Claims on Attempting to Seize British Oil Tanker

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Martin said the British Heritage was intercepted by Iranian "fast boats", small vessels used frequently by the Revolutionary Guard to harass commercial ships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

The British Heritage was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when the Iranian vessels approached it, demanding that the tanker change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, CNN said.

While officials in Gibraltar said they believed the cargo was destined for Syria, which is subject to European Union sanctions, Iran condemned the detention as an "illegal interception".

Three Iranian vessels attempted to prevent the British Heritage, an oil tanker operated by BP (BP), from passing the Strait of Hormuz, which is considered the world's most sensitive oil shipping choke point, according to a United Kingdom government statement.

British tanker Pacific Voyager was escorted through the Strait of Hormuz yesterday by Royal Navy Frigate HMS Montrose.

On Tuesday, General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the US and its allies were continuing discussions about putting together a maritime coalition to protect commercial shipping in the Gulf region from any Iranian threats. Iran said it downed the drone after it veered into its own airspace.

The unilateral move has sent tensions in the Gulf soaring as the administration of US President Donald Trump forges ahead with a policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran in coordination with its Middle East allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Three Iranian boats have "attempted to impede" a British oil tanker in the Gulf on Wednesday, further deepening tensions in the vital shipping channel off Iran.

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If the 300,000 tonne tanker was confirmed to be transporting Iranian crude oil, its attempted delivery to Syria could also be a violation of USA sanctions on Iranian oil exports.

Earlier this week officials said that the USA was working with its closest allies to help build security for ships navigating in the region.

The United States said its renewed sanctions against Tehran were working and warned Iranian leaders not to underestimate USA resolve.

The vessel was likely carrying just over 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil, the data firm Refinitv said.

And on Wednesday Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mocked the United Kingdom, calling it "scared" and "hopeless" for using Royal Navy warships to shadow a British tanker in the Gulf.

Iran has now blown through several limits set under the deal - including uranium stockpile limits and enriching uranium to higher levels than permitted - and accused European leaders of failing to guarantee it the economic benefits it was promised. But a spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry has told reporters the incident was a case of "piracy" and denied that the 330-metre tanker was taking crude to Syria.

The United States withdrew from the pact previous year and reimposed and extended punitive sanctions on Iran, saying the original pact failed to curb Iran's missile programs or address USA concerns about its behavior in the Middle East.