Iran seeking US-UK rift, releases footage of crew on board Stena Impero

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An Iranian Revolutionary Guard member walks onboard of Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, in Bandar Abbas port. (Reuters/Via Fars)
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A boat of Iranian Revolutionary Guard sails next to Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, at Bandar Abbas port, on July 21, 2019. (Iran, Mizan News Agency/WANA Handout via REUTERS)
Updated 24 July 2019

Iran seeking US-UK rift, releases footage of crew on board Stena Impero

  • Saudi minister Al-Jubeir condemns ‘violation of international law’ as Britain considers sanctions
  • Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused US National Security Adviser John Bolton of trying to enlist British support for the US campaign against Iran

JEDDAH: Iran tried on Sunday to drive a diplomatic wedge between the US and the UK amid escalating tension after Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces seized a British-flagged tanker in the Gulf and forced it into an Iranian port.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused US National Security Adviser John Bolton of trying to enlist British support for the US campaign against Iran. “Having failed to lure Donald Trump into the War of the Century, he is turning his venom against the UK in hopes of dragging it into a quagmire,” Zarif said.

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said any attack on the freedom of navigation was a violation of international law. “Iran must realize that its acts of intercepting ships, including most recently the British ship, are completely unacceptable. The world community must take action to deter such behavior,” he said.

Iran must realize that its acts of intercepting ships, including most recently the British ship, are completely unacceptable.

Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

British ministers said they were considering their options in response to the seizure on Friday of the tanker Stena Impero with 23 crew on board. A statement to Parliament is expected on Monday.

“We are going to be looking at a series of options,” junior Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said. “We will be speaking with our colleagues, our international allies, to see what can actually be done.”

Analysts said a military response was unlikely, but possible diplomatic and economic measures include freezing Iranian assets. Britain may also push for UN and EU sanctions to be reimposed on Iran, as the US has already done.

However, British defense expert Tim Ripley said the UK had few good options. 

“We rant and rave and we shout at the ambassador and we hope it all goes away,” he said.

“If the Americans are going to continue to enforce their embargo, there’s no incentive for the Iranians not to take more tankers. What have they got to lose?” 

Tehran released video of some of the 23-strong crew of the Stena Impero sitting around a table speaking with one of their captors, alongside fresh images showing Revolutionary Guardsmen on board the Swedish-owned vessel.

Video footage and a photo appear to show cooks preparing meals and crew members being briefed by an Iranian official onboard the Stena Impero.

The regime's foreign minister Mohammad Zarif said on Monday that Iran took measures against the ship to "implement international law," not in retaliation to actions by Britain, and was not seeking conflict.

Meanwhile, Iran thanked Saudi Arabia on Sunday for the return of an Iranian ship docked at Jeddah port since May because of technical problems.

“Iran appreciates efforts by the authorities of Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Oman to secure the safe return of the Happiness 1 oil tanker,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

Britain’s May to chair emergency session on seized tanker

British Prime Minister Theresa May will chair an emergency security session to discuss how to respond to Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

The meeting of security ministers and officials on Monday will discuss how to secure shipping in the sensitive region, which is vital to the world’s oil supply.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also expected to brief Parliament on the Friday seizure of the Stena Impero tanker, now in a heavily guarded Iranian port.

(With AP)


GCC health ministers: All precautionary measures have been taken to deal with coronavirus

Updated 17 min 53 sec ago

GCC health ministers: All precautionary measures have been taken to deal with coronavirus

RIYADH: All possible precautionary measures have been taken to deal with coronavirus along the borders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, a group of its health ministers said on Wednesday.
The measures will be implemented according to the International Health Regulations (2005) approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Unified Health Procedures Manual, which was approved by the Supreme Council at the group’s 39th summit in Riyadh in December 2018.
The announcement came during an emergency meeting in Riyadh, chaired by UAE Health Minister Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al-Owais, to discuss the current developments regarding the virus and how preventative and countermeasure efforts could be unified.
The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states.
The ministers also praised China’s efforts in monitoring and combating the virus and expressed their full support for cooperation with Beijing.
The ministers thanked the UAE for its efforts in evacuating many Arab nationals, keeping them under medical isolation in the emirates and then transferring them to their countries.
Al-Owais also thanked the GCC’s health council officials for their active and important role in coordinating and follow-up, saying that “the common goal is to continue to coordinate positions and strengthen cooperation in controlling epidemics, especially the emerging coronavirus through concerted efforts and exchange of experiences.”
He added it was important to determine the readiness of the GCC countries and to coordinate with the WHO in line with international health regulations.
GCC Secretary General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf said in a speech that this meeting came to implement the decision of the health ministers to achieve one of the council’s goals, “which is to unify positions and coordinate efforts, complementarity and interconnection among the GCC states in the health field.”
He added the meeting also aimed to plan to deal with emergency situations in the GCC states, to protect citizens inside and outside the GCC, and to protect residents from this virus,
“Despite the strenuous efforts of all GCC health ministries for the national prevention of this virus, the situation necessitated an emergency and extraordinary meeting of the health ministers committee to discuss common aspects that require coordination and unification of positions and efforts to confront the virus,” he said.
He also laid out the plans and precautions needed to confront the virus, thanking the ministers for the speedy response.
In 2018, the Supreme Council adopted a guide to include air, sea and land ports to reach a joint cooperation that creates effective links to quickly respond to public health emergencies.
Al-Hajraf said that the keenness and efforts of all the GCC governments in the field of health made them at the forefront among leading countries in providing comprehensive health care at regional and international levels.
On Jan. 29, an urgent meeting of the Communicable Diseases Committee for Coordination and Cooperation was held to confront and prevent the virus. The committee came out with several recommendations, including implementing precautionary protocols for examining arrivals, therapeutic protocols, the need for raising awareness and unifying media messages, among others.