Gibraltar Denies It is Due to Release Seized Iranian Tanker

Grace 1 sits anchored after it was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines in the Strait of Gibraltar

Iran condemned the move as "piracy" and called for the immediate release of the tanker, stressing that the tanker was not headed to Syria.

The news about Grace-1 has given rise to hopes about the imminent release of British vessel Stena Impero which was detained by Iran's revolutionary guards about two weeks after the Iranian oil tanker was seized.

Jalil Eslami, an official at Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization, announced on Tuesday that Britain might free Iranian-operated oil tanker Grace 1 soon.

The Gibraltar Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the case on Thursday. The current detention order for the ship expires late on Saturday, local media reported.

A highly placed source in the government of Gibraltar-a British overseas territory-told Reuters that Iranian reports of imminent release of the tanker, as soon as today, were not correct.

"They (the United Kingdom officials) have voiced willingness for the resolution of the problem", Eslami stated.


Tanker traffic through the Strait - where a fifth of the world's oil passes - has become the focus of a standoff between Iran and the USA, which has beefed up its military presence in the Gulf since May.

They said the Iranian origin of the cargo was not a factor in the decision to stop the supertanker when it entered British waters off Gibraltar to collect stores on July 4.

Although Grace 1 was seized by British forces, Britain said on Tuesday that investigations into the tanker were a matter for Gibraltar.

In a further escalation of tensions, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Tehran would launch legal action over the vessel's alleged breaches of maritime law.

Washington has developed a plan to create a military coalition to escort foreign vessels sailing through the Strait of Hormuz in the strategic Persian Gulf.

Israel has been striking Iranian targets in Syria over the past few years in an effort to limit the Islamic Republic's presence in its immediate neighborhood, and according to recent reports, has expanded those operations to hit Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.

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