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20 November 2019


First picture emerges of crew in seized tanker - Photo

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British shipping bosses today called for protection for tankers in the Gulf as Iran stepped up its clash with the West by claiming 17 spies working for the CIA had been arrested.

Axar.az reports citing Standart news that the UK Chamber of Shipping said that warships could escort British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz to stop Iran repeating the illegal seizure of a tanker, after the Stena Impero was detained on Friday.

Theresa May this morning chaired a meeting of Whitehall’s Cobra emergency committee on how to respond to the escalating crisis.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt was understood to have presented military options to better protect vessels in the Gulf, with intelligence chiefs providing the latest information on the threat posed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Britain, though, has been seeking to de-escalate the clash and the Government has been accused of failing to do enough to safeguard ships in the region after Iran vowed two weeks ago to hit back when the Royal Marines detained a tanker off Gibraltar on suspicion of breaking EU sanctions by taking Iranian oil to Syria.

David Balston, director of policy at the UK Chamber of Shipping and a former Navy commander, said that normally four or five UK-flagged vessels go through the Strait of Hormuz a day so it would be possible for them to be escorted in a convoy by HMS Montrose or another warship.

“We certainly need to protect the UK ships still in the region, and transitting the Gulf,” Mr Balston told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But on the other hand one must remember this ship has been illegally taken, in international waters which is in a clear breach of an international convention/regulations.”

It came as a picture taken inside the Stena Impero showed some of the 23-strong crew huddled on the floor under the watchful eye of a Revolutionary Guardsman. The men are seen sitting cross-legged on the bridge having had their shoes removed and piled up.

The Government is expected to seek an international diplomatic response to the seizure of the Stena Impero, which is Swedish-owned and whose crew is mainly Indian. Their families are desperate for news about their wellbeing.

HMS Montrose was patrolling in the area but too far to stop the Iranians from seizing the tanker, although they issued a warning over radio. Defence minister Tobias Ellwood signalled that a coalition response was needed to deal with the growing threat from Iran.

Iranian reports initially claimed the seizure of the Stena Impero came after it had collided with a fishing vessel, but officials then argued it was a justified response to Britain’s role in impounding the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar. Tensions with Iran have spiralled since last year when US President Donald Trump pulled out of an agreement with Tehran aimed at limiting its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Today Iranian media reported that 17 spies working for the CIA had been detained in the country and some had been sentenced to death. Iranian state television published images allegedly showing the CIA officers who were in touch with the suspected spies.

There was no immediate comment on the Iranian allegations by the CIA or US officials. Iran claimed in June that it had broken up an alleged CIA spy ring but it was unclear whether today’s announcement was linked to the same case.

Iranian reports initially claimed the seizure of the Stena Impero came after it had collided with a fishing vessel, but officials then argued it was a justified response to Britain’s role in impounding the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar. Tensions with Iran have spiralled since last year when US President Donald Trump pulled out of an agreement with Tehran aimed at limiting its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Today Iranian media reported that 17 spies working for the CIA had been detained in the country and some had been sentenced to death. Iranian state television published images allegedly showing the CIA officers who were in touch with the suspected spies.

There was no immediate comment on the Iranian allegations by the CIA or US officials. Iran claimed in June that it had broken up an alleged CIA spy ring but it was unclear whether today’s announcement was linked to the same case.

Date
2019.07.22 / 17:32
Author
Axar.az
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