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Britains May to Chair Sesson on Tanker 07/22 06:24

   LONDON (AP) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May will chair an emergency 
security session on Monday to discuss how to respond to Iran's seizure of a 
British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

   The meeting of security ministers and officials will discuss how to secure 
shipping in the sensitive region, which is vital to the world's oil supply.

   Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also expected to brief Parliament on the 
Friday seizure of the Stena Impero tanker, now in a heavily guarded Iranian 
port.

   Britain is considering a number of options to raise the economic and 
diplomatic pressure on Iran but officials say military operations are not being 
considered at the moment. Britain is also seeking support from key European 
allies in an effort to keep the Strait of Hormuz open to shipping.

   The tanker crisis is unfolding in the final days of May's leadership. The 
Conservative Party plans to name her successor Tuesday, and the new prime 
minister --- either front-runner Boris Johnson or Hunt --- is expected to take 
office Wednesday.

   Friday's seizure came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran 
stemming from President Donald Trump's decision last year to pull the U.S. from 
Iran's nuclear accord with world powers and reinstate sweeping sanctions on 
Iran.

   Steps have been taken to prevent further incidents in the coming days while 
longer range options are discussed. Maritime industry publication Lloyd's List 
said there are currently no U.K.-flagged ships heading to the Persian Gulf and 
eight U.K.-flagged vessels anchored there after a government advisory to such 
vessels to avoid the Strait of Hormuz.

   Restoring the free flow of traffic through the Strait of Hormuz is of 
critical importance to the world's energy supplies because one-fifth of all 
global crude exports pass through the narrow waterway between Iran and Oman.

   Iranian officials say the seizure of the British oil tanker was a justified 
response to Britain's role in impounding an Iranian supertanker two weeks 
earlier off the coast of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory located on the 
southern tip of Spain.

   Britain says the two incidents cannot be compared, asserting that Britain 
acted lawfully off the Gibraltar coast to prevent illegal oil shipments to 
Syria that would have violated European Union sanctions while Iran broke 
international maritime law by forcing the Stena Impero to change course and go 
to Iran.

   Britain says the tanker was in Omani waters at the time, which Iran disputes.

   As the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers unravels, the U.S. has 
expanded its military presence in the region, while Iran has begun openly 
exceeding the uranium enrichment levels set in the accord to try to pressure 
Europe into alleviating the pain caused by the sanctions.

   European nations, which are trying to save the nuclear deal and keep Iran 
from isolation, have tried to come up with ways to keep trading with Iran but 
have run smack Trump's sanctions

   Britain is adding to its military profile in the region but it does not have 
the naval resources that would be needed to protect all of its shipping 
interests.

   The seizure of the British-flagged tanker has proved popular inside Iran.

   In Tehran, some 160 lawmakers issued a joint statement Sunday praising the 
interception of the British-flagged vessel by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which 
released video of the seizure, showing Iranian commandos in black ski masks and 
fatigues rappelling from a helicopter onto the vessel.

   Also Sunday, an audio released by maritime security risk firm Dryad Global 
shows that a British frigate was too far away from the targeted tanker to keep 
it from being diverted into an Iranian port, despite U.K. efforts to keep it 
from being boarded.

   In the audio, a British naval officer from the HMS Montrose patrolling the 
area around the Strait of Hormuz, which is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is 
heard telling the Iranian patrol boat: "Please confirm that you are not 
intending to violate international law by unlawfully attempting to board the MV 
Stena."

   His words did nothing to deter the Iranians.

   British officials say the HMS Montrose was roughly 60 minutes from the scene 
when the Iranians took control of the tanker, too far away to intervene 
effectively.


(KR)

 
 
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