US condemns attempt by Iran to ‘harass’ British commercial vessel

Washington: The United States on Thursday condemned Iran’s attempt to “harass” a British commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz.

“The US condemns the IRGC-Navy’s attempt to harass the UK vessel near the Strait of Hormuz. We commend the Royal Navy in ensuring freedom of navigation and will continue to work with our allies to ensure the Iranian regime does not disrupt maritime security and global commerce,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted.

His remarks come in response to the recent failed attempt by three Iranian vessels to block the passage of British Heritage.

Washington had said that the British tanker was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area while passing the Persian Gulf region when it was approached by the Iranian boats. Later in the day, Britain confirmed it.

The incident comes amid strained ties between Iran and the US after the latter pulled out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) last year, blaming Tehran for supporting state-sponsored terrorism and conflicts.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had threatened that the UK “will see the consequences” after an Iranian oil tanker bound for Syria was seized by Gibraltar officials and Britain’s Royal Marines last week.

US President Donald Trump had accused Iran of “secretly” enriching uranium for a long time, warning that more sanctions would be imposed “substantially” on Tehran soon.

On the same day, an emergency meeting was convened by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the behest of the US to discuss the current status of the 2015 nuclear deal.

The pact was signed by five countries — the US, the UK, Russia, China and Germany, and the European Union — with an aim to limiting Iran’s civilian energy programme, thereby preventing it from developing nuclear weapons at some point in the future, in exchange for relief from sanctions that were crippling the country’s economy.

A year after the US pulled out of the deal, Iran announced its partial withdrawal from the agreement.

While Tehran is yet to withdraw fully from the accord, it recently announced its decision to increase nuclear enrichment in response to the new US sanctions.

On Monday, the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran announced that the country has officially surpassed the 3.67 percent uranium enrichment limit set under the 2015 pact and could consider increasing the stockpile to 20 percent in the future.


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