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Iran to 'release seven crew members' of British-flagged tanker Stena Impero Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Iran to 'release seven crew members' of British-flagged tanker Stena Impero

More than 20 crew members have been detained since mid-July [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 September, 2019

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The tanker's owner said Iranian authorities would release seven of the 23 detained crew members of the Stena Impero, without specifying a date.
Seven crew members of the British-flagged tanker seized by Iran in July will be released, the chief executive of the tanker's owner said on Wednesday.

"Seven crew members will be released according to the Iranian authorities... but we don't know when," Erik Hannel, CEO of tanker owner Stena Bulk, told AFP.

He added that the Swedish company was "cautiously" awaiting official confirmation of their release date.

Seized

The British-flagged Stena Impero tanker has a total crew of 23 on board.

The ship was seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps in mid-July, just weeks after the UK navy detained an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar widely suspected of heading to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

The Stena Impero has since been held offshore near Iran's southern port of Bandar Abbas.

Iranian authorities have denied its seizure was a tit-for-tat move designed to force Gibraltar authorities into releasing the Iranian tanker Grace 1, now renamed Adrian Darya 1, but have not given consistent reasons for it detention while passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Top Iranian diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif has claimed the Stena Impero was detained for breaching maritime regulations. Other officials have said that the tanker's transponder was turned off, that it was going the wrong way along a shipping channel, or that it  had collided with an unidentified fishing vessel.

Stena Bulk has said the new communication with Iranian authorities represents a "positive step on the way to the release of all the remaining crew".

Meanwhile, the Adrian Darya 1 turned off its tracking beacon on Monday night, when its location was last registered off the coast of Lebanon on route towards Syria.

The Iranian tanker was released by Gibraltar on 15 August despite continued US attempts to detain it.

Nuclear deal under threat

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran will announce a new step in scaling back its nuclear commitments within two days.

The president's comments come despite a diplomatic push for relief from US sanctions, the latest of which were imposed on Iran's space agency on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the sanctions on the space agency and two affiliated research centres, claiming that an explosion last week on a satellite launch pad was evidence of Iranian attempts to advance missile programmes.

The landmark Iran nuclear deal, inked in 2015, has been on the brink of collapse since last year, when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement.

Since then, Washington has pursued a policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran, re-introducing sanctions and ramping up US military presence in the Gulf as tensions have risen in recent months.

In a last ditch attempt to keep the nuclear deal alive, France said on Tuesday it could offer Iran a $15 billion lifeline if the US agrees.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the credit arrangement would see Iran receive $15 billion until the end of the year.

This would be in "exchange [for] a credit line guaranteed by oil in return for, one, a return to the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal)... and two, security in the Gulf and the opening of negotiations on regional security and a post-2025 (nuclear programme)", Le Drian said, according to Reuters.

"All this (pre)supposes that President Trump issues waivers."



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