United Kingdom says three Iranian boats tried to block tanker in Gulf

United Kingdom says three Iranian boats tried to block tanker in Gulf

The attempt failed when the British warship HMS Montrose materialized a few moments later and turned its guns towards the Iranian boats.

Relations between Tehran and the West have been increasingly strained after Britain seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar and London said HMS Montrose had to fend off Iranian vessels which sought to block a British-owned tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

CNN reported on Thursday that a USA aircraft recorded video footage of the event, but that the footage had not yet been released.

"We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region", the British Government representative said in the statement.

Iran denied that it attempted to stop the tanker, with foreign minister Javad Zarif describing the United Kingdom statement as "worthless", according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

As NPR's Peter Kenyon reported, "a former Revolutionary Guards commander was quoted as saying Iran should seize a British tanker in retaliation for the recent seizure of an Iranian tanker by the British Royal Marines".

The incident was reported a day after Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, warned that Britain will face "repercussions" over the seizure of an Iranian supertanker last week that authorities in Gibraltar suspect was breaching European sanctions on oil shipments to Syria.

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Initial reports from USA officials suggested that five Iranian vessels were involved in the incident.

Britain's seizing of an Iranian oil tanker last week was a threatening act that will not be tolerated, Iran's Defence Minister Amir Hatami said on Monday in a speech broadcast live on state television.

The Gibraltar Government said it had reason to believe was bound for the Banyasrefinery in Syria, which is the subject of European Union sanctions.

"Threats to global freedom of navigation require an worldwide solution", CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement.

"You (Britain) are the initiator of insecurity and you will realize the consequences later", Rouhani said after a cabinet meeting, in remarks carried by state television.

The incident followed US President Donald Trump's warning he would soon "substantially" increase sanctions on Iran as part of a drive to curb its nuclear programme and force Tehran to change its regional behaviour.

The US blames Tehran for a series of attacks on shipping in the world's most important oil artery since mid-May, allegations which are being denied by Iran.

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