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Iran seizes foreign vessel smuggling fuel to Arab countries: State TV

Iran's Revolutionary Guards detain seven sailors from various nationalities and confiscate 700,000 litres of fuel
The seizure comes less than three weeks after Iranian authorities impounded the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero (Reuters)

Iran's naval forces have seized an oil tanker in the Gulf that was smuggling fuel to Arab states, Iran's state TV said on Sunday. 

According to the report, Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) detained seven sailors who were on board the vessel, and confiscated the oil after seizing the tanker on Wednesday. 

"The IRGC's naval forces have seized a foreign oil tanker in the Persian Gulf that was smuggling fuel for some Arab countries," TV quoted IRGC commander Ramezan Zirahi as saying.

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"It carried 700,000 litres of fuel. Seven sailors onboard of the tanker, who are from different nationalities, were detained."

The semi-official Iranian Tasnim news website said the vessel was "delivered to the National Oil Products Distribution Company of Bushehr in coordination with the judiciary".

The official IRNA news agency reported that the vessel was an Iraqi ship.

However, Iraq's oil ministry said on Sunday it had no connection with an oil tanker.

"The ministry does not export diesel to the international market," the ministry said in a statement.

Iraq's relevant authorities are working to gather information about the seized vessel, the statement added.

Two Iraqi port officials said initial information obtained show that the seized "small ship" is owned by a private shipping company which is owned by an Iraqi private trader, the Reuters news agency reported.

Rising tensions

The seizure of the latest vessel is the third by Iran in less than a month in Gulf waters, a conduit for much of the world's crude oil.

On 18 July, the Guards said they detained the Panama-flagged MT Riah for alleged fuel smuggling.

A day later, they announced they had impounded British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz for breaking "international maritime rules".

Tensions have spiked between Iran and the West after Iranian commandos seized the Stena Impero, which came after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.

Describing the seizure of the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz as illegal, Britain's new foreign secretary rejected the idea that the UK could release the Iranian tanker in exchange for the British-flagged vessel seized by the IRGC.

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