Larijani: Seizure of British-flagged tanker response to UK’s ‘maritime piracy’

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The seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was a response to Britain’s “maritime piracy,” said Iran’s Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on Saturday.

“[Britain] committed maritime piracy, so [the IRGC] gave them a response for it,” said Larijani, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. Larijani's accusation refers to the detention of the Iranian tanker Grace 1 in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar on allegations of breaching EU sanctions against importing oil to Syria.

His remark came in response to an Iranian MP who criticized him for not issuing a statement in support of the IRGC’s seizure of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero on Saturday.

Iran's IRGC posted a video online on Saturday showing speedboats pulling up alongside the Stena Impero and troops wearing ski masks and carrying machine guns rappelling to its deck from a helicopter.

The seizure came hours after a court in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar said it would extend the detention of an Iranian tanker by 30 days. The July 4 operation to detain Grace 1 for breaching EU sanctions was aided by the British Royal Marines.

Iranian government officials and military commanders have been issuing threats towards Britain on almost a daily basis since the seizure of Grace 1, threatening to “act alike” and seize a British oil tanker.

Britain told the UN Security Council on Saturday that the Stena Impero was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters and the action “constitutes illegal interference.”

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce diplomatic and economic measures, including potential asset freezes, as a response to the incident, according to a report from British newspaper The Telegraph.

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