U.S. Applauds Britain's Seizure of Iranian Oil Tanker as Tehran Protests

U.S. Applauds Britain's Seizure of Iranian Oil Tanker as Tehran Protests

British Royal Marines seized the supertanker Grace 1 on Thursday for trying to take oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions, a dramatic step that drew Tehran's fury and could escalate its confrontation with the West.

The Reuters news agency said it had reviewed shipping data that suggested the tanker had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran.

Britain's Foreign Office did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

The U.S. said Friday its ambassador to worldwide organizations in Vienna, Jackie Wolcott, had requested a special meeting of the global Atomic Energy Agency to discuss its "latest, concerning report on the Iran regime's nuclear program".

The Grace 1 has sailed from the Persian Gulf all the way around Africa and was seized at the mouth of the Mediterranean today.

Spain does not recognise Britain's sovereignty over Gibraltar, which dates all the way back to a 1713 treaty.

The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence on Thursday welcomed the operation, calling it a 'firm action by the Gibraltarian authorities, acting to enforce the EU Syria sanctions regime'.

The tanker's detention comes just days after Iran announced it would exceed the uranium enrichment limit set under the 2015 deal to allay concerns it might seek to develop a nuclear weapons capability, something it has always denied.

Spain's Acting Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Spain was studying the circumstances of the action but said it followed "a demand from the United States to the UK".

The Gibraltar authorities who seized it did so under the authority of European sanctions against Syria that have been in place for years, with no reference to the source of the oil.

Royal Marines using helicopters and speed boats intercepted the Panama-flagged tanker in the early hours of July 4 while the vessel was in British and Gibraltar territorial waters and waiting to take on supplies.

The confrontation took on a military dimension in recent weeks, with Washington accusing Iran of attacking ships in the Gulf and Iran shooting down a USA drone.

Iranian authorities have criticized the seizure of the supertanker by authorities in Gibraltar, assisted by the British Royal Marines for allegedly breaching European Union sanctions against Syria.

Colin Kahl, a former Barack Obama advisor, has warned a collapse of oil trade could lead to Iran attacking USA forces and their allies both by itself and through proxies.

European countries have walked a thin line since past year when the United States ignored their pleas and pulled out of a pact between Iran and world powers that gave Tehran access to global trade in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

The EU, and others, has imposed sanctions on Assad's regime over its continued crackdown against civilians.

According to the official version of events, London alerted Madrid about the presence of the supertanker and warned that "there was going to be an intervention by British forces to detain it in the port of Gibraltar".

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