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World & Nation

Iran seizes a British oil tanker and a Liberian vessel, U.K. foreign secretary says

U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship Boxer
President Trump says the USS Boxer, shown in San Diego Bay in May, brought down an Iranian drone July 18 near the Persian Gulf. Now Iran has seized a British oil tanker and a Liberian vessel, the U.K. foreign secretary says.
(Associated Press)

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says two vessels have been seized by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz.

Hunt said Friday that he would shortly attend an emergency government session to see what can be done to secure the release of the two vessels.

He said they are a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel.

He said the crews comprise a range of nationalities but are not believed to include British citizens.

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Iran said Friday that it seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, a fresh escalation in confrontations in the strategic waterway that has become a flashpoint in tensions between Tehran and the West.

The website of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, sepahnews.com, said the tanker Impero Stena was seized for “noncompliance with international maritime laws and regulations” and was taken to an Iranian port. The report did not say what port.

The operator of the Stena Impero said it was unable to contact the ship after it was approached by unidentified vessels and a helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz. The ship has 23 crew members aboard.

The British government said it was urgently seeking more information.

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The incident came as Iran and the United States emphatically disagreed Friday over Washington’s claim that a U.S. warship downed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf. American officials said they used electronic jamming to bring down the unmanned aircraft, while Iran said it simply didn’t happen.

Neither side provided evidence to prove its claim.

At the White House on Friday, President Trump said flatly of the Iranian drone: “We shot it down.” But Pentagon and other officials have said repeatedly that the Boxer, a Navy amphibious assault ship in the Strait of Hormuz, actually jammed the drone’s signal, causing it to crash, and did not fire a missile. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive technology.

Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, said, “There is no question this was an Iranian drone, and the USS Boxer took it out, as the president announced yesterday, because it posed a threat to the ship and its crew. It’s entirely the right thing to do.”

In Tehran, the Iranian military said all its drones had returned safely to their bases and denied there was any confrontation with the Boxer.

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” tweeted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

The strategically vital strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf serves as the passageway for one-fifth of all global crude exports, and oil prices ticked up Friday on the news.

On June 20, Iran shot down an American drone in the same waterway, and Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment.

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Since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal with world powers last year and imposed economic sanctions against Tehran, the Iranians have pushed back on the military front in recent weeks, with Washington accusing Tehran of threatening American forces and interests in Iraq and the gulf.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, suggested in New York as he arrived for a meeting at the United Nations that Iran could immediately ratify an agreement to allow broader inspections of its nuclear facilities by U.N. inspectors if the U.S. dropped its sanctions.

China urged Washington to consider the offer, calling it “a positive signal that Iran is willing to seek a compromise solution.”


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