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Iran seizes Gulf tanker it claims was smuggling oil

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

By Nasser Karimi

Iran's Revolutionary Guard has seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil.

The report from State TV comes days after an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates disappeared off trackers in Iranian territorial waters.

The Panamanian-flagged oil tanker MT Riah stopped transmitting its location overnight on Sunday near Qeshm Island, which has a Revolutionary Guard base on it, according to data listed on tracking site Maritime Traffic.

Iran State TV did not identify the seized vessel, but said it was intercepted on Sunday. It said the oil tanker had 12 foreign crew members on board and was involved in smuggling one million litres of fuel from Iranian smugglers to foreign customers.

The report said the oil tanker was intercepted to the south of Iran's Larak Island in the Strait of Hormuz.

A US defence official had said America "has suspicions" that Iran seized the oil tanker when it turned off its tracker in the Strait of Hormuz. An Emirati official said the small oil tanker made no distress call before switching off its tracker.

The 58-metre Riah typically made trips from Dubai and Sharjah on the UAE's west coast before going through the strait and heading to Fujairah on the UAE's east coast.

The acknowledgement that a vessel has been seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guard appears to contradict statements by Iran's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday saying the country had aided a foreign oil tanker with a malfunction.

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