Armed Iranian boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday, officials have reported.
In a statement, the UK’s Ministry of Defense said that “contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.”
“HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” the statement said. “We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region.”
The British Heritage is a British oil tanker operated by British Petroleum. It was not carrying any cargo at the time of the incident.
However Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rejected the accusation, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Thursday.
“Apparently the British tanker has passed. What they have said themselves and the claims that have been made are for creating tension and these claims have no value,” he said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned earlier Wednesday that the UK “will see the consequences” after Gibraltar officials and UK Royal Marines seized an Iranian oil tanker bound for Syria last week.
Rouhani, was quoted sayin in a cabinet session that, “I tell the British that they are the initiator of insecurity and you will understand its consequences later.”
The British government said the Iranian tanker was believed to be carrying two million barrels of crude oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.