Gibraltar denies Iranian tanker due for release
Dubai - Britain accused the vessel of violating European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
The British territory of Gibraltar will not yet release an Iranian oil tanker seized by Royal Marines in the Mediterranean despite an Iranian report that it could do so on Tuesday, an official Gibraltar source said.
The commandeering of the Grace 1 on July 4 exacerbated frictions between Tehran and the West and led to retaliatory moves in Gulf waterways used to ship oil.
Britain accused the vessel of violating European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a charge Tehran denies.
The deputy head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation, Jalil Eslami, said on Tuesday that Britain was thinking of freeing the Grace 1 following an exchange of documents.
"The vessel was seized based on false allegations," Eslami said in comments reported by state news agency Irna. "We hope the release will take place soon."
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency, quoting unidentified Gibraltar authorities, said the tanker would be freed by Tuesday evening. However, a senior source in the government of British overseas territory denied that would happen on Tuesday.
Although Grace 1 was seized by British forces, Britain said on Tuesday that investigations into the tanker were a matter for Gibraltar. The territory has denied Iran's claim that the action was taken on the orders of Tehran's longtime foe Washington. "As this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further," a British Foreign Office spokesman said.