Gibraltar, UK dismiss Iran’s claim of release of its seized tanker on Tuesday

Gibraltar defense police officers guard the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 as it sits anchored after it was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria, in the Strait of Gibraltar, southern Spain, in this July 20, 2019 file photo. — Reuters

LONDON — A highly placed Gibraltar government source denied on Tuesday an Iranian news agency report which said the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 would be leaving the British overseas territory on Tuesday.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency quoted unidentified Gibraltar authorities as saying the tanker would bee freed on Tuesday evening.

A senior Gibraltarian government source said that report was not correct.

Meanwhile, Britain said on Tuesday that investigations into the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 were a matter for Gibraltar.

"The investigations being conducted around the Grace 1 are a matter for the government of Gibraltar," a Foreign Office spokesman said. "As this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further."

The deputy head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation, Jalil Eslami, said in remarks reported by state news agency IRNA that Britain was thinking of freeing the Grace 1 following an exchange of documents.

"The vessel was seized based on false allegations ... it has not been freed yet," Eslami said.

"We hope the release will take place soon." The tankers' affair has added to worsening hostilities since Washington pulled out of an international agreement curbing Iran's nuclear program and reimposed economic sanctions. — Agencies