18:41 GMT +313 November 2019
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    A crew member checks the new name of Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar on August 18, 2019. - Gibraltar rejected a US demand to seize the Iranian oil tanker at the centre of a diplomatic dispute as it prepared to leave the British overseas territory after weeks of detention.

    Pompeo Claims US Has 'Reliable' Information Iran Oil Tanker Headed to Syria

    © AFP 2019 / JOHNNY BUGEJA
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    A spokesman for the Iranian government, Ali Rabiei, said earlier that Tehran had sold the oil from the Adrian Darya - the former Grace 1- which had recently been released from Gibraltar's custody despite requests by Washington to continue to detain the ship, and was unaware of the boat's current destination.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday claimed that the Adrian Darya 1 is headed to Syria.

    "We have reliable information that the tanker is underway and headed to Tartus, Syria. I hope it changes course", Pompeo said.

    A source familiar with the matter said earlier that the tanker was heading toward the city of Iskenderun in southern Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier on Friday said, however, that the renamed ship was now headed to Lebanon.

    The former Grace 1 was captured by Gibraltar authorities, supported by UK troops, off the Gibraltar coast on 4 July on suspicions of transporting oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. In mid-August, the vessel was released, as Gibraltar reportedly said it had received written assurances from the captain of the vessel that the tanker was not going to deliver its cargo to Syria. Tehran denied making such statements.

    The United States issued a warrant to seize the tanker for breaching international law by allegedly making illegal oil shipments to Syria. A US court ruled that the vessel, all petroleum on board and $995,000 in cash are subject to confiscation due to violations of a number of US laws on bank fraud and money laundering, as well as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and a law on confiscation for terrorism-related activities.

    Gibraltar authorities have, however, rejected the US request to extend the ship's detention, citing differences in US and European sanctions against Iran.

    Late on Friday, the US Treasury Department sanctioned the tanker Adrian Darya and its captain for allegedly transporting over 2 million barrels of oil that will benefit Iran’s security forces.

    Tensions between the United States and Iran have recently escalated.

    In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which coordinated the descaling of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for gradually lifting sanctions against the country, and then hit the Iran petroleum industry with new sanctions earlier this year, prompting Tehran to begin reneging on its obligations by increasing supplies of low-enriched uranium.

    US President Donald Trump designated the IRGC, part of the Iranian Armed Forces, a terrorist organization in mid-April. Tehran responded by accusing Washington of supporting terrorism and labeled the US Central Command a terrorist organization.

    In May, four oil tankers were targeted in sabotage attacks off the United Arab Emirates coast. In June, two more oil tankers were hit by explosions in the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Gulf of Oman with the Persian Gulf. The United States blamed Iran for the incidents and started building up its military presence in the Gulf. Iran has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

    Iran said earlier this month that it was considering sending naval ships to escort the Adrian Darya 1.


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