Gibraltar refuses U.S. request to seize Iranian tanker

The Iranian flag flies at Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 before being named as Grace 1 as it sits anchored after the Supreme Court of the British territory lifted its detention order in the Strait of Gibraltar

Gibraltar refused a USA request to seize the Iranian tanker Grace 1 on Sunday, saying it was unable to comply because it was bound by European Union law.

Royal Marines first seized the vessel off the shores of Gibraltar on 4 July, saying that it was carrying oil bound for Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

As of Sunday, it had been renamed the Adrian Darya 1 and had hoisted an Iranian flag.

The detention of the vessel related to the suspected destination of the cargo, the Banyas refinery in Syria, which is owned by the Banyas Oil Refinery Company. Analysts had said the Iranian ship's release by Gibraltar could see the Stena Impero go free.

"The Gibraltar Central Authority is unable seek an Order of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar to provide the restraining assistance required by the United States of America", a Gibraltar government statement said on Sunday.

Gibraltar authorities rejected an eleventh-hour attempt by the United States' to reseize the oil tanker on Sunday, arguing that European Union regulations are less strict than USA sanctions on Iran.

As reported, Iranian oil tanker, previously called Grace 1, has left Gibraltar, after a month of being unlawfully detained by UK.

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A Gibraltar judge had ordered the Grace 1 tanker released, but the United States filed a request to detain the ship alleging it was involved in supporting illicit shipments to Syria by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, listed as a terrorist group by Washington.

On Thursday, the Justice Department made a last-minute effort to seize the oil tanker, filing the necessary formal request just hours before it had been cleared to set sail.

It's now called the Adrian Darya 1 and Iran's ambassador to London said it was expected to leave Gibraltar sometime on Sunday night.

While the U.S. continues its attempt to try and seize the vessel, Britain maintains that the tanker must abide by assurances given to Gibraltar and not proceed to Syria.

In a statement on August 18, Gibraltar's government said the ship would be free to go, as USA sanctions on Iran had no equivalent in the United Kingdom or the rest of the EU.

"The era of hit and run is over. if top authorities ask the navy, we are ready to escort our tanker Adrian", the Iranian navy's Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

The tanker's release comes amid a growing confrontation between Iran and the West after President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.

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