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UK to send second warship to Gulf after Iran confrontation

British Navy's HMS Montrose will be joined in the Gulf by the larger HMS Duncan[Getty]

Date of publication: 12 July, 2019

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The British Navy is moving up its timetable for relieving the HMS Montrose in the Persian Gulf with the larger HMS Duncan destroyer in the wake of the recent developments.

The UK says it will bring forward a pre-planned rotation of warships in the Gulf, while two vessels will temporarily be deployed together near Iranian waters, after a series of incidents in the troubled waters.

The HMS Duncan "is deploying to the region to ensure we maintain a continuous maritime security presence while HMS Montrose comes off task for pre-planned maintenance and crew change over", a UK government spokesman said.

A source added that the rotation had been moved forward by a number of days as tensions in the region mount.

This comes a day after the Royal Navy said it had stopped three Iranian paramilitary vessels from disrupting the passage of a British oil tanker through the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping lane at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard denied any incident had occurred in the strait.

That brief but tense standoff is believed to have stemmed from the British seizure of the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar on 4 July.

Police in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain, said Thursday they arrested the captain and chief officer of the supertanker suspected of breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi told Iranian state news agency IRNA that "the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid ... the release of the tanker is in all countries' interest".

"This is a dangerous game and has consequences," Mousavi warned.

During Friday prayers, Kazem Sedighi, an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened retribution.

"Rest assured, Britons will soon feel the slap of the powerful hands of the Islamic Republic," he said.

The tanker's interception has stoked already high tensions in the region, as the Trump administration continues its campaign of maximum pressure on Iran.

The US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East.

Fears are growing over a wider conflict after mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz blamed on Tehran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran's downing of a US military drone.

Iran has recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the accord a year ago.

The US has also re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran's oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

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