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Britain says Iran tried to 'impede' UK tanker in Gulf

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The British warship HMS Montrose which the UK government said was forced to intervene.

AFP, London  :
 London said Thursday that Iranian military vessels tried to "impede the passage" of a UK oil tanker but were warned off by a British warship in a dramatic escalation of tensions with Tehran in the Gulf.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards denied involvement but also cautioned both the United States and Britain that they would "strongly regret" the UK Royal Marines' detention of one of the Islamic republic's tankers off Gibraltar last week.
Wednesday's incident in the flashpoint Strait of Hormuz occurred after US President Donald Trump raised the pressure by announcing that sanctions against Iran over its stepped-up nuclear activities would be "increased substantially" soon.
The rapid chain of events further complicates Britain and other European allies' efforts to salvage a landmark nuclear accord with Iran from which Washington pulled out last year.
CNN initially cited US defence sources as saying that armed Iranian vessels belonging to the Revolutionary Guards tried to seize the tanker but were driven off by a Royal Navy frigate.
The UK defence ministry said only that the Iranian boats tried to "impede" a commercial vessel called British Heritage. The 274-metre (899-foot) supertanker is owned by the British energy giant BP and can carry a million barrels of oil.
"We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to deescalate the situation in the region," a Downing Street spokesman said.
The UK defence ministry said that "three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz."
"HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away," the ministry statement said.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards-a vast and powerful security organisation that the United States blames for staging several tanker attacks since May-denied trying to seize or impede the UK tanker.

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