Iran's President Hassan Rohani said on Wednesday Britain would face "consequences" over the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker, and said Iran's increase in uranium enrichment was for peaceful aims, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.
Iran has demanded the immediate release of the tanker Grace 1, which British Royal Marines boarded off the coast of Gibraltar last week and seized over accusations it was breaking sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
"You (Britain) are the initiator of insecurity and you will realize the consequences later," Rohani was quoted by Tasnim as saying after a cabinet meeting.
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Rohani also said Iran's decision to increase uranium enrichment would produce fuel for power plants and serve other peaceful aims, and that it was within the framework of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Refinitiv Eikon mapping indicates the Grace 1 loaded Iranian crude oil on April 17, and if this were confirmed, the attempted delivery to Syria could also be a violation of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
European Union sanctions against the government of Syria took effect in May 2011, shortly after the start of President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators that mushroomed into a protracted civil war.
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Iran, a close ally of Assad, is also under a U.S. sanctions regime meant to bar all international sales of Iranian oil, imposed after President Donald Trump withdrew Washington last year from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
In a statement, the Gibraltar government said it had reasonable grounds to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria.
“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said. “With my consent, our port and law enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation.”