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AFP
August 19, 2019

Gibraltar rejects US demand to seize Iranian oil tanker

World

AFP
August 19, 2019

GIBRALTAR: Gibraltar on Sunday rejected a US demand to seize an Iranian oil tanker at the centre of a diplomatic dispute as it prepared to leave the British overseas territory after weeks of detention.

Gibraltar’s government said it could not seek a court order to detain the supertanker because US sanctions against Iran were not applicable in the European Union. "The EU sanctions regime against Iran -- which is applicable in Gibraltar -- is much narrower than that applicable in the US," the Gibraltar authorities said in a statement.

Iran’s ambassador to London said in a tweet that "the vessel should set sail this evening," with fresh crew arriving. A Gibraltar judge ordered the Grace 1 tanker released on Thursday, weeks after authorities seized the vessel on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria in breach of European sanctions. Iran has repeatedly denied this.

But on Friday the US Justice Department filed a request to detain the ship alleging it was involved in supporting illicit shipments to Syria by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, listed as a terrorist group by Washington.

The seizure triggered a sharp deterioration in relations between Tehran and London. Iran subsequently detained the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in what was seen as a tit-for-tat move.

The US Justice Department says the Grace 1 -- now renamed the Adrian Darya -- and its oil are subject to forfeiture because of US sanctions violations. Ties between Tehran and Washington have frayed since US President Donald Trump withdrew last year from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, reimposing crippling unilateral sanctions.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on Sunday wished Kuwait’s 90-year-old Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah a "speedy recovery" after holding "good talks" with the Gulf state’s officials. Sheikh Sabah, who ascended to power in January 2006, was seen in public last week during Muslim prayers and appeared in good health.

There has been no word on the emir’s health in official media or Kuwaiti newspapers, though it is commonly made public if he is admitted to hospital or travels abroad for treatment. "Good talks with Kuwaiti crown prince (Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah) and foreign minister. Praying for Emir’s speedy recovery," Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Zarif said that during the talks, he stressed that Iran’s proposal for a regional dialogue forum and non-aggression pact would eliminate the need to rely on foreign powers. Unlike its strained relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Iran maintains good ties with Kuwait, which has acted as mediator to improve ties between Tehran and Arab Gulf states.

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