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Tanker stopped by Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Strait of Hormuz: State TV

Report follows earlier indications that Panama-flagged oil tanker Riah had been picked up by Iranian forces over the weekend
An Iranian water storage tanker sails off the coast of Qeshm Island on 14 February 2001 in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most important waterways (AFP)

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard said on Thursday it had stopped a foreign tanker "smuggling fuel" in the Gulf, local media reported.

"A foreign vessel smuggling one million litres of fuel in the Lark Island of the Persian Gulf has been seized," state television said. The tanker was stopped on Sunday, the station reported.

Earlier this week it was reported that a Panama-flagged oil tanker, Riah, stopped transmitting its location on Saturday as it made its way through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

The Revolutionary Guard has released footage of Iranian military boats circling the Riah, which it says is footage of the ship being apprehended.

A US official told the Associated Press that Washington had "suspicions" Iran seized the vessel.

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The official said the Riah's last-known location was in Iranian waters off the island of Qeshm, which holds a Republican Guard military base.

Lark Island, which Iranian state TV said the unnamed vessel was allegedly smuggling fuel on, lies some 9km to the southeast of Qeshm.

On Tuesday Iran said it assisted a "foreign tanker that had encountered a technical problem" in the Gulf after receiving a distress call.

The Revolutionary Guard on Thursday confirmed that the tanker allegedly smuggling fuel was the same vessel.

However, TankerTrackers, which logs and analyses oil tankers' movements worldwide, said there was no indication that the Riah had been apprehended at all.

"Our analysis right now is that nothing has actually happened," the organisation said on Twitter. 

"This seems to be an attempt to boost the price of oil after the recent news (which Iran denied) that USA was in talks with Iran. There is no visual or data evidence to support a vessel being apprehended."

An anonymous UAE official on Tuesday told the AFP news agency Riah did not send out a distress call.

"The tanker in question is neither UAE owned nor operated, does not carry Emirati personnel, and did not emit a distress call," the official said.

"We are monitoring the situation with our international partners."

Tensions in the Gulf are high, following a number of sabotage attacks on oil infrastructure and foreign vessels that have been blamed on Iran. Tehran denies responsibility.

Around a third of the world's oil supplies travel through the Strait of Hormuz.