Greek shipowner asks US help in retrieving oil tanker seized by Iran

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Empire Navigation Inc, the Greek shipowner of an oil tanker seized by Iran, said it sought any help from the US government in regaining control of its vessel in a US court filing on Thursday.

For nearly a year, the tanker has been a lightening rod in tensions between Tehran and the Washington, which has long imposed sanctions on Iranian oil over its nuclear program. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.

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The US Department of Justice had seized the tanker at sea last April when it was carrying Iranian oil and was called the Suez Rajan.

US authorities brought the tanker to the US Gulf Coast and it unloaded the oil after months of delays. The tanker was then renamed the St Nikolas and Empire Navigation continued to operate it under the new name.

Iran seized the St Nikolas on Thursday as it carried Iraqi crude destined for Turkey. The move was in retaliation for the confiscation last year by the United States, Iranian state media reported, a move likely to stoke regional tensions.

“While defendants hope to regain control over the vessel, their top priority is the safe return of its crew,” a lawyer for Empire said in a filing to the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday. “The US government ... is well aware of this situation and Defendants appreciate whatever assistance the US government can provide.”

The US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Pentagon said Iranian forces unlawfully boarded the St Nikolas in the Gulf of Oman and forced it to change course toward Iranian territorial waters.

The White House condemned the seizure. “No justification whatsoever to seize it, none whatsoever. They need to let it go,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

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Iran confirms its navy seized tanker in Gulf of Oman that was boarded by armed men

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