IRGC rejects US claim of Iran attempt to seize UK tanker in Persian Gulf
Iran Press TV
Thu Jul 11, 2019 07:28AM
Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has dismissed a claim by US officials that its naval forces tried to stop a British tanker in the Persian Gulf.
Early on Thursday, two American officials, who were speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, claimed that five boats believed to belong to the IRGC had approached the tanker British Heritage at the northern entrance of the Strait of Hormuz and ordered it to stop.
The Iranian boats dispersed, said one of the sources, after the UK's Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose, which had been escorting the tanker, "pointed its guns at the boats and warned them over radio."
The other official also called the alleged incident an act of "harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage."
However, the IRGC rejected the US officials' claim, stressing that Iranian boats were carrying out their normal duties.
"Patrols by the IRGC's Navy vessels have been underway in the Persian Gulf based on current procedures and missions assigned to them with vigilance, precision and strength," said the Public Relations Department of the IRGC Navy's Fifth Naval Zone in a statement.
"In the past 24 hours, there has been no encounter with foreign ships, including British ones," it added.
The statement further noted that the IRGC Navy's fifth zone has the power to act "decisively and swiftly" and seize foreign vessels in the area it is tasked with patrolling if an order is issued to that effect.
Similarly, Britain claimed Thursday that three Iranian vessels had tried to block the passage of its tanker but backed off.
"HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away," a British government representative said.
Zarif: Such claims have no value
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also reacted to the allegations, saying they are merely meant to create tensions.
Those who make such claims attempt to "cover up their weak point," he added. "Apparently the British tanker has passed. What they have said themselves and the claims that have been made are for creating tension and these claims have no value."
The claims came two weeks after British marines illegally seized an Iranian oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar under the pretext that the vessel had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions against the Arab country.
Reports, however, said the seizure took place at the request of the US.
The Islamic Republic condemned the illegal seizure as "maritime piracy" and summoned the British ambassador on three occasions to convey its protest at the confiscation.
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