Tuesday, 10 December, 2019

Iran ‘ready for different scenarios’ amid tensions with Britain, says Iranian ambassador to UK

Iran’s envoy to Britain on Sunday urged the UK to contain “domestic political forces” which he said wanted to escalate tension between the two countries amid the capture of a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf by Iran.

“UK government should contain those domestic political forces who want to escalate existing tension between Iran and the UK well beyond the issue of ships. This is quite dangerous and unwise at a sensitive time in the region,” Hamid Baeidinejad tweeted.

A video emerged on Saturday purporting to show troops descending onto a British-flagged tanker seized in the Strait of Hormuz.

The footage, released by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, shows a vessel with Stena Impero written down the side.

It was one of two UK-linked ships seized on Friday.

UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday that Iran maybe choosing a “dangerous path of illegal and destabilising behaviour”.

When asked whether London was considering putting sanctions on Tehran, junior defence minister Tobias Ellwood said on Sunday that Britain is looking into “a series of options” to respond to Iran.

“Our first and most important responsibility is to make sure that we get a solution to the issue to do with the current ship, make sure other British-flagged ships are safe to operate in these waters and then look at the wider picture,” Ellwood told Sky News. “We are going to be looking at a series of options… We will be speaking with our colleagues, our international allies, to see what can actually be done.”

Iran’s Fars news agency, quoting an official, reported on Saturday the British tanker was in an accident with a fishing boat before it was detained.

“It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat… When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it,” the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipourm told Reuters.

“The tanker is now at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and all of its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over.”

Stena Impero had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf. The vessel was not carrying any cargo, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported on Saturday.

It was “approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz”, the company that owns the tanker, Stena Bulk, said.

Stena Bulk and the company manages the tanker, Northern Marine Management, said they were “unable to contact the vessel which is now heading north towards Iran”.

The second vessel was Liberian-flagged, the UK foreign office said, but neither of the two allegedly seized had any British citizens onboard

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