Iran called on Britain on Friday to immediately release its oil tanker which British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicion that it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a foreign ministry spokesman told state news agency IRNA.
“This is a dangerous game and has consequences … the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest,” the spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said.
Iran has warned of reciprocal measures if the tanker is not released by Britain.
‘Britain replaces warship in Gulf, to maintain continuous presence’
Britain said on Friday it would deploy the destroyer HMS Duncan warship to the Gulf to replace HMS Montrose, maintaining a continuous presence there during a time of heightened tension in the region.
Relations between Tehran and the West have been increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar and
London said HMS Montrose had to fend off Iranian vessels which sought to block a British-owned tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
“As part of our longstanding presence in the Gulf, HMS Duncan is deploying to the region to ensure we maintain a continuous maritime security presence while HMS Montrose comes off task for pre-planned maintenance and crew change over,” the government said.
“This will ensure that the UK alongside international partners can continue to support freedom of navigation for vessels transiting through this vital shipping.”
On Thursday, Britain said three Iranian vessels tried to block a British-owned tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz, which controls the flow of Middle East oil to the world, but backed off when confronted by a Royal Navy warship.
Iran denied that its vessels had done any such thing.
The tension between Iran and the West has increased a week after Britain seized the tanker and London said the British Heritage, operated by oil company BP, had been approached in the strait between Iran and the Arabian peninsula.
Britain is among European parties to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump pulled out of last year and reimposed and toughened sanctions on Tehran.
“Foreign powers should leave the region because Iran and other regional countries are capable of securing the regional security,” Mousavi said.