Friday 12 July 2019 8:03 am

Iran urges UK to release seized oil tanker as tensions escalate

Iran has demanded that Britain releases an oil tanker it seized last week on suspicion it was breaking EU sanctions by transporting oil to Syria.

Read more: UK ‘on heightened security’ after Iran tried to block oil tanker

“This is a dangerous game and has consequences,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

“The legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest.”

Iran has warned it will retaliate if the oil tanker is not released.

Yesterday the UK said a Royal Navy ship warded off three Iranian boats attempting to block a British oil tanker’s passage through the Strait of Hormuz.

The boats backed off after the Navy ship, HMS Montrose, trained its guns on the Iranians and issued verbal warnings, according to reports.

Iran has denied that its ships were involved.

The strait is a crucial stretch of water to the transportation fo Middle East oil to the world.

“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region,” the Ministry of Defence said yesterday.

UK and Iran tensions are escalating following the UK’s arrest of an Iranian oil tanker last week.

Mousavi said the UK seized the tanker after pressure from the US.

President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Iran 2015 nuclear treaty, putting sanctions back on Iran.

In May Washington ordered ocuntries and companies to stop importing Iranian oil, or face being banned from the global financial system.

Since then Iran has stopped adhering to the nuclear deal, breaching limits on uranium enrichment.

Read more: Royal Navy blocks Iran attempt ‘to seize’ British oil tanker

That sparked a warning from the UK last week, with the Foreign Office saying “Iran must immediately stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its obligations”.

Main image credit: Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images