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EghtesadOnline: Iran on Sunday urged Britain to prevent "domestic" forces from exploiting the rift between the two countries over seizure of oil tankers to escalate bilateral tensions, but said it is ready for any scenario.

"[The] UK government should contain those domestic political forces who want to escalate existing tension between Iran and the UK well beyond the issue of ships. This is quite dangerous and unwise at a sensitive time in the region," Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran's ambassador to Britain, said on Twitter. 

"Iran, however, is firm and ready for different scenarios," he added.  

Britain has called Iran's Friday seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf a "hostile act" and rejected Tehran's explanation that it seized the vessel because it had been involved in an accident with a fishing boat and ignored distress calls, according to Financial Tribune.

The capture of the Stena Impero followed Britain's seizure on July 4 of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating EU sanctions on Syria. Iran denies the tanker was taking oil to Syria and has repeatedly called for the ship's release. 

In a phone call with his British counterpart, Jeremy Hunt, on Saturday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the ship must go through a legal process before it can be released, ISNA reported. 

The two officials emphasized the importance of defusing tensions and resolving the matter through legal channels. 

According to Reuters, Hunt expressed his "extreme disappointment" over Iran's seizure of the British-flagged tanker.

 

 

Letter to UN 

In another development, Britain told the United Nations Security Council on Saturday that the tanker seized by Iran was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters and the action "constitutes illegal interference". 

"The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law," read the letter, which was seen by Reuters and also sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 

"International law requires that the right of transit passage shall not be impeded, and therefore the Iranian action constitutes illegal interference," Britain's UN mission wrote. "Our priority is to de-escalate. We do not seek confrontation with Iran." 

 

 

Possible Sanctions

The Telegraph says British ministers are drawing up plans to target the Iranian government with sanctions over the incident. 

Hunt, according to the report, was expected to use a Commons statement on Sunday to announce a package of diplomatic and economic measures, including possible asset freezes, in response to the capture of the Stena Impero. 

The UK could also push for European Union and United Nations sanctions to be reimposed on Tehran after they were lifted in 2016 as part of a deal on Iran's nuclear program, the Telegraph said. 

 

Iran Britain oil tankers Seizure Tanker Rift Exploit