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Iran won’t tolerate Britain’s maritime piracy: Defense chief

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami

Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami has slammed as an act of “piracy” Britain's seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar, saying Tehran will not tolerate such actions.

“The action runs counter to international regulations and is a kind of maritime piracy,” Hatami told a ceremony in the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on Monday.

Referring to the Islamic Republic long record in combating piracy, he said: “Definitely this maritime piracy will not be tolerated by us”.

Gibraltar police and customs agencies, aided by a detachment of British Royal Marines, boarded and impounded Iranian supertanker Grace 1 in the Strait of Gibraltar on Thursday, upon a request from the United States.

Later that day, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Britain’s ambassador to the country to express its strong protest at the move. 

At the Foreign Ministry, Rob Macaire was told that the British Royal Marines’ move was tantamount to “maritime piracy”, and that the UK must immediately release the oil tanker.

It was also emphasized that the Islamic Republic of Iran will employ all its political and legal capacities to secure the release of the vessel and uphold its rights.

Spain, which challenges the British ownership of Gibraltar, said the action was prompted by a US request to Britain and appeared to have taken place in Spanish waters.

Experts believe the measure taken by the British government in seizing the Iranian tanker is illegal and can have serious consequences for the government in London.

Meanwhile, Iran's Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeisi Britain claims it is adhering to international law while the tanker seizure was by definition a breach of the very same laws.

Raeisi also drew attention to the UK's double standards in implementing the law, saying: "None of these countries made a noise when Daesh was stealing Syrian and Iraqi oil under their watch through these same waterways but now that the Islamic Republic's tanker is legally and by following all international rules sailing through Gibraltar they decided to seize it?"

'Iran can make all weapons it needs to defend itself'

Elsewhere in his Monday remarks, the Iranian defense minister hailed the Iranian armed forces for shooting down an intruding US spy drone in the Persian Gulf last month.

He said the incident sent a message to Washington that Iran will defend its borders no matter what.

He highlighted Iran’s capability in manufacturing the military equipment it needed, saying “we spare no effort to defend the country’s borders.”

Iran not after war with any country

Taking the podium after Hatami, Chief Commander of the Iranian Army Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said Monday that the Islamic Republic was not after war with any country, but it would give a “crushing response to any act of aggression”.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, as it has been repeatedly announced, is not after a war with any country, but it has learned very well how to defend itself,” he said.

Earlier in May, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei played down Washington’s belligerent posture against Iran.

Ayatollah Khamenei ruled out the possibility of war between the US and Iran, saying Washington knew that engaging in such a conflict would not be in its interest.

The United States has engaged in significant regional military buildup, including by sending an aircraft carrier, a bomber task force, an assault ship, and around 1,500 additional forces to the Middle East.

President Donald Trump and other US officials have, however, recurrently disowned any intention to engage in warfare with Iran, claiming that the American equipment and troops are actually meant to prevent one.

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