Iranian boats attempted to seize British tanker

Reuters

Other senior Iranian officials have also made direct and indirect threats against the United Kingdom for the seizure of the tanker.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said Tuesday that the US and its allies were working to put together a coalition of countries to come up with a system to enforce freedom of navigation in the region amid what the US says are heightened threats from Iran.

Rouhani, speaking in a cabinet session, said, "I tell the British that they are the initiator of insecurity and you will understand its consequences later".

The detention of the 330-metre (1,000-feet) Grace 1 comes at a sensitive time in Iran-EU ties as the bloc mulls how to respond to Tehran announcing it is poised to breach the uranium enrichment limit it agreed to in a troubled 2015 nuclear deal.

In its statement to the IAEA board, the European Union urged Iran to return to compliance but also added it "deeply regrets the USA withdrawal and calls on all countries to refrain from taking any actions that impede the implementation of the JCPOA commitments".

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The government also confirmed that the Grace 1 was detained when it freely navigated into British Gibraltar territorial waters, having previously left the worldwide waters of the Strait of Gibraltar on a pre-arranged call for provisions and spare parts.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, meanwhile, denied the supertanker belonged to Iran, saying whoever owned the oil shipment and the vessel could pursue the case through legal avenues.

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.

If the tanker indeed loaded oil from Iran, it was not only in breach of European Union sanctions on the Syrian entity owning the refinery believed to be the destination of the oil, but it also violated the USA sanctions on Iran's oil exports.

The Gibraltar Government said it had reason to believe was bound for the Banyasrefinery in Syria, which is the subject of European Union sanctions. Iran had earlier summoned the British ambassador over what it called the "illegal interception" of the ship.

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