Monday, December 6, 2021

Officials tell AP Iran has seized Vietnamese oil tanker

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Iran seized a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman last month and still holds the vessel, two US officials told the Associated Press on Wednesday, amid tensions. As the latest excitement in the waters of the Middle East unfolds. Between Iran and the United States over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Soldiers of Iran’s powerful paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on October 24 at gunpoint took control of the MV Southis, a ship that analysts suspect of trying to transfer sanctioned Iranian crude to Asia. The seizure was monitored by US forces, but ultimately did not act as the vessel sank into Iranian waters.

Iran celebrated the capture of the ship in dramatic footage broadcast on state television, a day before the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran.

Vietnamese embassy officials in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ship-tracking data analyzed by the AP from MarineTraffic.com showed the ship sailed near Iran’s southern port of Bandar Abbas on Tuesday. A satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc also showed the ship from Bandar Abbas in recent days.

Two US officials spoke on condition of anonymity as the information was yet to be made public amid ongoing efforts to restart talks on Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Negotiations in Vienna have stalled since the election of hardline President Ibrahim Raisi in June, allowing Iran to step up its nuclear program and sounding the alarm in western capitals.

The European Union, Iran and the US all said late Wednesday that indirect talks between Tehran and Washington would resume in Vienna on November 29.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri said in a tweet the aim of the talks was to lift the “illegal and inhuman” sanctions. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Iran continues to take “provocative nuclear steps” and that “this window of opportunity will not open forever.”

Officials spoke to the AP when Iranian state TV offered a series of conflicting reports about a confrontation between the Guard and the US Navy’s Middle East-based 5th Fleet. State TV sought to cast the incident as an act of US aggression against Iran in the Gulf of Oman, with the US Navy detaining a tanker carrying Iranian oil and guards freed it and calling it Islamist. brought back to the Republic.

Asked about Iran’s claim of a US invasion, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said it was false and it was Iran that carried what it described as a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Oman on October 24.

“It’s a bogus claim,” Kirby said of the Iranian claim. “The only seizure that was made was by Iran.” He declined, citing the nationality of the seized ship, saying it was up to that country to discuss it.

Kirby said the boarding and seizure of Iran’s ship was a “gross violation of international law that undermines freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”

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Tehran also did not give the ship’s name, or other details, nor an explanation as to why the navy might be targeting it. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iranian authorities hailed the seizure of the ship as a heroic act, with Raisi lauding the Revolutionary Guard on Twitter. The country’s oil minister, Javad Owzi, thanked the guards for “saving the Iranian oil tanker from American pirates”.

State TV released footage showing an Iranian surveillance drone monitoring a red tanker in the Gulf of Oman. Heavily armed Iranian commandos then boarded the boat from a helicopter as small speedboats surrounded the ship and an Iranian catamaran ship was patrolling the waters.

Video shows Iranian Guard soldiers pointing open deck-mounted machine guns on the USS The Sullivans, an Earle Burke-class guided missile destroyer. Photographs recently released by the US military show The Sullivans in the Arabian Sea near the Gulf of Oman.

The status and makeup of the Sothis’ crew was not immediately known. A shipping database showed the last registered owner of the ship to be OPEC Petrol Transportation Company, a firm with a Hanoi address. A telephone number for the company was not immediately found.

However, Southies was on the radar of United Against a Nuclear Iran, a New York-based advocacy group that had long been skeptical of the Islamic Republic. In a letter addressed to the Vietnam Maritime Administration on 11 October, the group said analysis of satellite images showed that Southee had received a ship-to-ship transfer of oil from an oil tanker named Oman Pride in June.

The US Treasury in August identified Oman Pride as being used to transport Iranian oil as part of a smuggling scheme to enrich the Guard’s Expeditionary Quds Force. The Treasury alleged that Iranian oil was being sold in East Asia, without identifying any specific country.

Iran’s seizure of the south would be the latest in a string of kidnappings and explosions to shake the Gulf of Oman, which lies near Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all traded oil passes.

The US Navy blames Iran for a series of lame mine attacks on ships that damaged tankers in 2019, as well as for a deadly drone attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker that killed two European crew members earlier this year. killed its members. Just a few months ago, Iranian hijackers stormed and briefly captured a Panama-flagged asphalt tanker off the United Arab Emirates.

Tehran denies carrying out the attacks, but a broad shadow war between Iran and the West has played out in the region’s volatile waters, with President Donald Trump withdrawing the US from Iran’s nuclear deal in 2018 and attacking the country. Crushed restrictions.

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Associated Press writers Isabel Debre in Dubai, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, and Robert Burns and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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