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Iran Detains Another Tanker As Tensions Remain High


Iranian state media reported Sunday that it had seized a foreign ship. This is the third vessel Iran has seized in a matter of weeks. Tehran said it was carrying, what it called, smuggled fuel.

Here's more from NPR's Peter Kenyon.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Iranian media reported the seizure, saying the ship was carrying some 185,000 gallons of fuel. Iran's English-language Press TV aired video that it said showed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - or IRGC - boarding the vessel and checking the cargo.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: These are the first images out of the Persian Gulf, where IRGC has seized a foreign oil tanker...

KENYON: The report said the ship was taking its cargo of allegedly smuggled fuel to unnamed Gulf Arab countries. Seven crew members aboard the ship were detained. Tensions in the Gulf began to escalate last month after British Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, saying it was bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Iran then seized a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf and detained a third vessel before releasing it. Officials from both the U.K. and Iran have rejected the idea of exchanging the seized vessels. Now Iran has further increased tensions with this latest seizure.

Fuel smuggling is a real issue in the Gulf, as Iranian fuel is heavily subsidized for domestic consumption and smugglers can reap profits by selling it elsewhere. But Tehran has so far provided no evidence to back up its claim that the ship it seized Sunday was engaged in smuggling.

Iran continues to sound defiant. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a news conference Monday the Trump administration's move to sanction him personally means failure for any hope of negotiations. He accused Britain of being complicit in what he called U.S. economic terrorism. Zarif also warned that Tehran could pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement, quote, "if necessary." Trump has already pulled the U.S. out of the deal.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.

(SOUNDBITE OF KARMAWIN'S "RAW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.