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US will aggressively enforce sanctions over Iran tanker: State Dept official

An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on August 18, 2019. (AFP photo)

The United States has threatened to aggressively enforce its sanctions on those potentially assisting the return of an Iranian-operated supertanker that has been released by Gibraltar after more than a month of detention there by Britain.

"The shipping sector is on notice that we will aggressively enforce U.S. sanctions," a State Department official told Reuters on Thursday days after warning countries not to allow the tanker to dock which is traveling through the Mediterranean and that Washington wants seized.

Ship tracking data has shown the ship last heading toward Greece.

On July 4, Britain’s naval forces unlawfully seized the vessel, then known as 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.

Tehran, however, rejected London’s claim about the tanker’s destination and slammed the seizure as “piracy.”

The State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, warned that Washington would act against anyone who directly or indirectly helped the tanker.

"All parties in the shipping sector should conduct appropriate due diligence to ensure that they are not doing business with nor facilitating business for, directly or indirectly, sanctioned parties or with sanctioned cargo," the official warned.

A State Department official said on Monday that aiding the ship, Adrian Darya, formerly called Grace 1 has “potential criminal consequences.”

On Thursday, Gibraltar’s government announced it was releasing the supertanker despite pressure from the US for the vessel’s continued detainment.

Soon after the announcement, the US Department of Justice unveiled a warrant for the seizure of the ship. Gibraltar, however, knocked back the request.

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