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Iran says it seized British tanker, denies U.S. brought down drone

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Iran says it seized British tanker, denies U.S. brought down drone

By Parisa Hafezi and Steve Holland

 

2019-07-19T202500Z_1_LYNXNPEF6I1MF_RTROPTP_4_MIDEAST-IRAN-TANKER-BRITAIN.JPG

Undated handout photograph shows the Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, at an undisclosed location, obtained by Reuters on July 19, 2019. Stena Bulk/Handout/via REUTERS

 

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran said it had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday but denied Washington's assertion that the U.S. Navy had downed an Iranian drone nearby this week, as tensions in the Gulf region grew again.

 

Britain said it was urgently seeking information about the Stena Impero tanker, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf.

 

Iran's state news agency IRNA quoted a military source as saying the vessel had turned off its tracker, ignored warnings from the Revolutionary Guards and was sailing in the wrong direction in a shipping lane.

 

"We will respond in a way that is considered but robust and we are absolutely clear that if this situation is not resolved quickly there will be serious consequences," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters.

 

Hunt said Britain was "not looking at military options, we are looking at a diplomatic way to resolve the situation."

 

The Revolutionary Guards have not captured a second tanker - the British-operated, Liberian-flagged ship Mesdar - in the Gulf, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, quoting regional military sources.

 

The Mesdar had turned sharply north toward Iran's coast on Friday afternoon but then changed course again and headed westward away from Iran, according to Refinitiv tracking data.

 

Relations between Washington and Tehran worsened last year when U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. Under the pact, Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work, long seen by the West as a cover for developing atomic bombs, in return for lifting sanctions. But sanctions have been imposed again, badly hurting Iran's economy.

 

Trump said he would talk to Britain about the report of the British tanker being seized in the Gulf.

 

Relations between Iran and the West have been increasingly strained in recent months over security in the Gulf, U.S. sanctions on Iran and Tehran's nuclear programme.

 

Military incidents in the Gulf have increased international concern that both sides could blunder into a war in the strategic waterway, which is vital to world oil supplies.

 

Oil prices gained on Friday, trading above $62 a barrel, after the latest spike in tensions along the waterway.

 

Iran shot down a U.S. drone in the Gulf in June and British naval forces seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria.

 

The U.S. military said on Friday that unarmed surveillance aircraft were in international airspace, monitoring the Strait of Hormuz and had been in contact with U.S. ships in the area.

 

"We have patrol aircraft operating in international airspace monitoring the situation within the Strait of Hormuz," said Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown, a U.S. Central Command spokesman.

 

Iran and the United States were at odds over a U.S. assertion that its Navy had shot down an Iranian drone on Thursday in the Strait of Hormuz because it had come too close to a U.S. warship.

 

GRAPHIC: Map of tanker's route - 32EB5Yv

 

'NO DOUBT'

 

Trump said there was no doubt the U.S. Navy warship Boxer had destroyed an Iranian drone but Tehran showed video footage that it said disproved the incident even happened.

 

“No doubt about it, no. We shot it down,” Trump said.

 

Speaking about Iran, he said the United States hopes "for their sake they don’t do anything foolish. If they do they will pay a price like nobody has ever paid a price.”

 

Trump said on Thursday that the Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, had destroyed an Iranian drone because it had flown to within 1,000 yards (914 meters) of the ship in a "provocative and hostile action." A U.S. official said the drone was brought down by electronic jamming.

 

But Iran said all of its drones were accounted for.

 

"All drones belonging to Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz ... returned safely to their bases after their mission of identification and control," Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior Iranian armed forces spokesman, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying.

 

He said there was no report of any "operational response" by the Boxer and Iran's state television broadcast a video showing aerial views of ships that it said disproved the U.S. assertion.

 

The television station said the footage, which came from Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and the timing notations indicated the pilotless aircraft was still filming after Washington said it had been downed.

 

FALTERING DIPLOMACY

 

The United States has blamed Iran for a series of attacks since mid-May on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz.

Tehran rejects the allegations.

 

The United States has reimposed economic sanctions to throttle Iran's oil trade and pressure Tehran to renegotiate the nuclear accord, discuss its ballistic missiles and modify its regional policies.

 

Tehran on Thursday signalled a willingness to engage in diplomacy with a modest offer on its nuclear work - ratification of a document prescribing more intrusive nuclear inspections if Washington abandoned its sanctions.

 

But a senior Trump administration official dismissed the offer by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

 

Zarif appeared to have no decision-making ability and that Washington "would not consider anything from him serious," the official said.

 

Asked whom the United States would need to hear from in order to have negotiations over Tehran's nuclear programme, the official said: "I would say the supreme leader or the president."

 

Trump remained open to negotiations with Iran without preconditions on its nuclear programme and will maintain a tough economic sanctions regime on Tehran in the meantime, the official said.

 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States needed Iran to "come to the table" for negotiations.

 

(Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington, Reuters staff in Dubai and Kate Holton and Jonathan Saul in London; writing by Alistair Bell; editing by Bill Trott and Grant McCool)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-07-20

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Iran has reverted to the old tryed and true method of taking hostages 

Edited by Scott
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25 minutes ago, canuckamuck said:

Which side is lying the most? Sadly in these days of untruth, we have no idea.

i think that way too.  trump has to maintain his tough guy image so he could be making this up. 

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4 minutes ago, Isaanbiker said:

Not a good idea. They could take over the ship in a nano second by using their flying carpet attack force. 

Yeah, that's how they fought Isis.

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With my company we always have a security det standing by on the 50 cals plus an escort passing thru the Strait. Fock I hate that place.

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