TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned Britain yesterday of “consequences” over the detention of an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar.
“I point out to the British that you initiated insecurity (on the seas) and you shall grasp the consequences of it later on,” Rouhani said in comments to the Cabinet broadcast by state TV.
Iran’s President called the seizure of the tanker “a foolish act”.
The 330 metre Grace 1 tanker, capable of carrying two million barrels of oil, was halted yesterday by police and customs in Gibraltar – a tiny British overseas territory on Spain’s southern tip – with the aid of a detachment of British Royal Marines.
Iran condemned the detention as an “illegal interception”, but Gibraltar officials said that the cargo was believed to be destined for Syria, which is subject to European sanctions.
Iran denied this, saying that the destination “was somewhere else”.
“The port named in Syria does not even have the capacity for such a supertanker to dock,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said last Sunday.
Iran’s Defence Minister vowed Monday to respond to Britain’s move.
Calling the tanker’s seizure an act of maritime piracy, Brigadier-General Amir Hatami said it “will not be tolerated by us and will not go without a response”.
Gibraltar’s Supreme Court ruled last Friday that the tanker can be held for 14 more days, the territory’s Attorney General said.
The territory’s government said in a statement on Monday that the tanker was “well inside” British Gibraltar Territorial Waters when it was boarded, having “previously exited the international waters of the Straits of Gibraltar”.
The Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, a key advisory and arbitration body, warned that if Britain failed to release the tanker Iran would be forced to take tit-for-tat action.
“If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, the relevant authorities will be duty-bound to take reciprocal action and seize a British oil tanker,” said Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai.