British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday accused of bringing oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions, a dramatic step that could escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.
Iran's intelligence minister said Thursday that any negotiations with the USA would have to be approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and would require the lifting of US sanctions.
If the tanker indeed loaded oil from Iran, it is not only in breach of European Union sanctions on the Syrian entity owning the refinery believed to be the destination of the oil, but it also violates the US sanctions on Iran's oil exports.
During the meeting, all the documents indicating that the oil tanker was moving on the legal path were made available to the United Kingdom envoy, who said that he will submit Iran's protest to his country's officials.
The IAEA on Monday said its inspectors had confirmed Iran had surpassed the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium established in the 2015 deal promising the country economic incentives in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Acting minister Borrell said that Washington had alerted London about the supertanker's presence in European waters, rather than informing Spain.More news: West Indies give glimpse of future after Chris Gayle departs
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USA national security adviser John Bolton called the seizure "excellent news".
What is new are US sanctions on Iran itself, imposed previous year when US President Donald Trump pulled out of an agreement that had guaranteed Tehran access to world trade in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Authorities said there was reason to believe the ship, called the Grace 1, was carrying crude oil to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria.
Abbas Moussavi, a spokesman, called the move "destructive" and said it could increase tensions in the Persian Gulf, where six oil tankers have suffered attacks that Britain and the USA have blamed on Iran.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed Gibraltar's move, though the incident could also signal some tensions within Europe.
While Syrians will feel the immediate impact of halting the crucial oil shipment to the country, the arrested vessel shows the difficulty Iran faces in finding outlets for its crude as President Donald Trump's administration ramps up sanctions.
Iran can't pump oil through the pipeline, which spans Egypt from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, because the link is owned by companies from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar.
The Grace 1 tanker was halted in the early hours of July 4 by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, a tiny overseas British territory on Spain's southern tip.