US issues warrant to seize Iranian oil tanker

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The shipping agent for an Iranian supertanker caught in a diplomatic standoff says the vessel is ready to depart Gibraltar on Sunday or Monday, as the US made a last-minute effort to seize it again.

The ship was detained by British Royal Marines on July 4 on suspicion it was smuggling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

The United States is seeking to take control of the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, along with the oil it carries and $995,000, on the ground on that the ship has links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US has designated a terrorist organization.

The warrant has been issued by a US Federal Court in Washington and is addressed to "the United States Marshal's Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer".

In a Thursday interview with VOA Persian, Brookings Institution foreign policy research director Michael O'Hanlon said he did not see Gibraltar's decision on the tanker as a significant failure for USA policy.

She added the parties involved were linked with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. regards as a foreign terrorist organisation.

The warrant for the seizure of the tanker, which carries 2.1m barrels of oil, was issued by the USA district court for the District of Columbia and addressed to "the United States Marshal's Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer".

Earlier on Friday, Iranian officials said the tanker was preparing to set sail under an Iranian flag after its registration was switched from Panama and would be renamed the Adrian Darya for the voyage.

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Authorities in the British territory of Gibraltar found themselves at the centre of a diplomatic dispute on Thursday, over the detention of an Iranian oil tanker.

Neither Tehran nor London have responded to the warrant.

Gibraltar authorities could not be reached for comment. "The facts speak louder than the self-serving political statements we are hearing today", it said in a statement from its spokesman. On Thursday, the British struck a deal to return the impounded ship.

The Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper reported that the vessel was unlikely to sail before Sunday, citing an unnamed source who added that it was waiting for six new crew members including a captain to arrive that day.

The Grace 1 "is no longer subject to detention", said Chief Justice Anthony Dudley.

A last-minute legal attempt by the United States to keep the tanker detained was rejected by Gibraltar on Thursday.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had warned London that it will definitely pay the price for the illegal seizure of Grace 1 in global waters.

The capture of the tankers heightened tensions just as European nations scramble to try to save a landmark nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic after the USA pulled out of the accord in May past year and started imposing sanctions on Iran.

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