Iran calls for seizure of British ship if oil tanker isn’t freed

A top adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday encouraged forces to seize a British oil tanker as a response to London’s taking an Iranian supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar.

British Royal Marines detained the Iranian vessel Thursday because officials said it was transporting oil to Syria, a violation of European Union sanctions. The Grace 1 tanker was boarded and detained by Marines off the British territory on the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement.

Officials said the seizure resulted from information the Gibraltar government received that gave it “reasonable grounds” to suspect the vessel was violating EU sanctions.

Friday, Iran Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaee said a British tanker should be taken in retaliation. Rezaee demanded the Iranian ship’s immediate release and called those who seized it “bullies and thugs.”

“If Britain doesn’t return the Iranian tanker, the duty of responsible [Iranians] is to seize a British oil tanker in a retaliatory measure,” he said.

Josep Borrell, Spain’s acting foreign minister, said the United States had asked Britain to detain the ship.

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said via Twitter British Ambassador Robert Macaire was summoned to his office over the “illegal seizure.” In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said it told Macaire the detainment was “tantamount to maritime banditry” and demanded its release.