Gibraltar says no immediate plan to release Iranian tanker

Iran Says It Expects Tanker Held by U.K. to Be Released Soon

Britain has claimed the Iranian-owned oil tanker was seized on suspicion of violating the European Union's unilateral bans against Syria.

The official is also quoted as saying Iran hopes the issue will be resolved in the near future and the tanker can continue sailing with the country's national flag.

Although Grace 1 was seized by British forces, Britain said on Tuesday that investigations into the tanker Grace were a matter for Gibraltar.

"The vessel was seized based on false allegations ... it has not been freed yet", Eslami said. It is suspected of violating European Union sanctions on oil shipments to Syria, and its seizure deepened global tensions in the Persian Gulf.

Tanker Trackers, a company that monitors ship movements, said Grace-1 was sending signals on Monday that indicate it will leave Gibraltar toward a destination in Morocco, although the vessel is still in Gibraltar. The current detention order on the vessel expires on Saturday night, the spokesman said.

A highly placed Gibraltarian government source denied on Tuesday an Iranian news agency report which said the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 would be leaving the British overseas territory on Tuesday.

In a further escalation of tensions, Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned Tehran would launch legal action over the vessel's alleged breaches of maritime law.

In one of the most prominent incidents in the Gulf in the past month, Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in what appeared to be a retaliatory move after Gibraltar seized the Iranian oil tanker.

Tanker traffic through the Strait - where a fifth of the world's oil passes - has become the focus of a standoff between Iran and the United States, which has beefed up its military presence in the Gulf since May.

Mr Eslami said: "Efforts from Iran and the port organisation have been made for the release of this ship".

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