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Seizure of British tanker totally lawful: Iran’s top security official

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)
This image grab taken from a broadcast by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) on July 22, 2019 shows Iranian Revolution Guards Corps speedboats patrolling seized British tanker Stena Impero off the southern port city of Bandar Abbas. (By AFP)

Iran's top security official says his country’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz was totally lawful.

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani made the remarks in a meeting with visiting Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi on Saturday.

“We believe that all countries need to respect international maritime law in order to help maintain security, and we make no exceptions for any country in this regard,” he added.

“Unlike Britain’s piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, where it illegally confiscated an Iranian oil tanker, Iran’s measure [in the Persian Gulf] has been completely legal and in line with maritime regulations and security,” said Shamkhani.  

Shamkhani was referring to the UK-flagged Stena Impero tanker, which was impounded by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on July 19 when it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz en route to Saudi Arabia "for failing to respect international maritime rules.”

IRGC’s measure to seize Stena Impero came days after Britain’s naval forces unlawfully seized Iranian-owned oil tanker Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar, under the pretext that the supertanker had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in violation of the European Union’s unilateral sanctions against the Arab country.

Reports, however, said the confiscation took place at the request of the US.

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani (R) meets with visiting Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi on July 27, 2019. (By IRNA)

Tehran has condemned the seizure as “maritime piracy,” warning that it would not go unanswered. It has also rejected London’s claim that the ship had been bound for Syria.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Shamkhani highlighted Iran's lasting policy in pursuing ties based on self-restraint and mutual understanding with neighbors, criticizing certain regional countries for “taking hasty and arrogant measures and moves” in dealing with regional crises.

These countries, he said, have removed the possibility of holding dialogue and have made it difficult to manage regional crises.

"Security measures for the region must be provided by using local capacities and cooperation between regional countries, and foreign countries' interference will achieve nothing but increase problems," he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) shakes hands with his Omani counterpart Yusuf bin Alawi in Tehran on July 27, 2019. (By IRNA)

Bin Alawi, for his part, said all countries must avoid measures that would add to instability and insecurity in the region.

Earlier, the Omani foreign minister met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

They discussed the effects of the US economic terrorism on Iran, as well as security in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

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