Britain warns of 'serious consequences' if Iran does not release British tanker

U.S. Navy the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer transits the San Diego Bay in San Diego Calif. President Donald Trump says the USS Boxer destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz amid heightene

Iran's seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker was allegedly due to a collision with an Iranian fishing boat, the country's state-run IRNA news agency said Saturday.

Last week, the Royal Navy warship frigate HMS Montrose drove off three Iranian vessels which tried to stop the commercial ship British Heritage as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz.

Kadkhodaei's remarks, reported by Fars, also denounced the "illegitimate economic war" on Iran, an apparent reference to the harsh new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration that are created to force Tehran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, reached under the Obama administration.

The US blamed Iran for attacks on tankers in the world's key shipping area since May - Tehran denies all the accusations.

Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened previous year when U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

Unconfirmed reports claim that Iran has also seized a second British tanker as the British Government holds an emergency COBRA meeting.

A spokesperson for the Revolution Guards said they were able to bring the Stena Impero to their shores despite "resistance and interference" from a British warship.

France's foreign ministry has called on Iran to quickly free a British-flagged oil tanker and its crew, as well as respect freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf.

With the seizure inflaming already fraught relations between Iran and the West, Britain's foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said he was anxious that Tehran's action had put it on a "dangerous path". "The U.S. will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran's malign behavior".

Stena Bulk, the owner of the seized British tanker, said the vessel's crew members are of Indian, Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationalities. Angus King, I-Maine, said earlier this week that he had seen a map of military assets in the region and anxious that "there are so many opportunities for mistake and miscalculation on both sides".

Earlier a United States official said Washington has "very clear evidence" that it downed the drone, but gave no details.

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, called the interception of the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar "piracy". "It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region".

Iran said the ship was "violating global maritime rules".

It was reported that a Panama-flagged oil tanker, Riah, stopped transmitting its location on Saturday as it made its way through the Strait of Hormuz. Fars said the tanker was taken to the port of Bandar Abbas and that the crew of 23 would remain on board while investigations continued.

He said that Iran moves to "confront the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers is an instance of this rule and is based on worldwide rights". "As the Foreign Secretary has said, our response will be considered and robust and there will be serious consequences if the situation is not resolved", he said.

Earlier this month, Iran purposely overshot the deal´s caps on uranium enrichment, aiming to pressure the remaining parties to make good on their promises to help prop up its economy.

Both Manila and New Delhi said they were in touch with Tehran to seek the release of their nationals.

The also sending several hundred troops as well as aircraft and air defense missiles to Iran's rival, Saudi Arabia, as part of its increased military presence in the region.

A senior administration official, earlier Friday, told reporters it is anticipated that the Defense Department will release video evidence of the drone shootdown.



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