Seized tanker could have been Syria bound
Authorities in Gibraltar have said they yesterday intercepted an Iranian supertanker believed to be breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Tehran's crude oil to war-ravaged Syria.
A senior Spanish official said the operation was requested by the United States. Iran's state-run IRNA news agency described the incident as "an illegal seizure of an Iranian oil tanker".
Gibraltar port and law enforcement agencies, assisted by Britain's Royal Marines, boarded the Grace 1 early yesterday, authorities on the British overseas territory at the tip of Spain said in a statement.
It added that the vessel was believed to be heading to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria, a government-owned facility under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad and subject to the EU's Syrian sanctions regime.
The EU and others have imposed sanctions on Mr Assad's government over its continued crackdown against civilians.
Spain's caretaker Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said the tanker was stopped by British authorities after a request from the United States.
Iran later summoned the British ambassador in Tehran to answer questions about the operation. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet that Rob Macaire was summoned over the "illegal interception" of the ship. Mr Mousavi later called the ship's seizure "odd and destructive", adding: "It can cause an increase in tensions in the region."