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18 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM

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Iran tanker in limbo off Gibraltar as US issues warrant

AFP, Gibraltar

A last-minute US warrant to seize an Iranian tanker preparing to leave Gibraltar after weeks of detention cast doubt over its departure yesterday, prolonging a diplomatic spat between Tehran, London and Washington. The US Justice Department alleged the ship was part of a scheme "to unlawfully access the US financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," which Washington has designated a foreign terrorist organisation.

There was no immediate comment from Britain or Gibraltar, its overseas territory, over whether they would act on the warrant.

Gibraltar seized the ship on July 4 on suspicion it was transporting oil to Syria in breach of European sanctions, triggering a sharp deterioration in relations between Tehran and London. Iran has repeatedly denied this. Iran subsequently detained the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in what was seen as a tit-for-tat move.

On Thursday, Gibraltar’s Supreme Court ordered the tanker released after the British overseas territory said it had received assurances from Iran that the Grace 1 would not head to any country subject to European Union sanctions.

Preparations are underway for the ship to set sail, with a new crew set to arrive to pilot the tanker and its 2.1 million barrels of oil.

But in a last-minute twist on Friday, the United States, which is at loggerheads with Iran, issued the warrant.

The warrant says the vessel and all the oil aboard are subject to forfeiture based on violations of a US law, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which revolves around any unusual or extraordinary threat from overseas to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States.

It also cites violations to bank fraud, money laundering and terrorism statutes.

The US move comes after it tried — and failed — to block the tanker’s release on Thursday.

The July 4 seizure came amid surging tensions in the Gulf after several alleged Iranian attacks on smaller tankers.

The US — citing Tehran’s threat to American allies — expanded its military presence in the region with a new aircraft carrier task force, missile batteries and strategic bombers.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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