September 24, 2019 / 8:55 AM / 22 days ago

Seized British tanker Stena Impero still in Iran - Stena Bulk CEO

STOCKHOLM, Sept 24 (Reuters) - British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, detained by Iran in July, is still in the country despite Iranian officials saying it was free to leave, Stena Bulk CEO Erik Hanell said on Tuesday.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, said on Twitter on Monday the Swedish-owned vessel was free to leave after legal hurdles had been cleared.

“She has moved during her time there to get fresh water, among other things, but is still in Bandar Abbas,” Hanell said in a text message, adding he had no information as to why the ship had not left Iran.

The seizure of the Stena Impero on July 19, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, ratcheted up tensions in the region following attacks on other merchant vessels which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied responsibility for those attacks, which took place along a vital international oil shipping route.

An Iranian government spokesman said on Monday that all legal steps had been completed for the release of the tanker, Iranian media reported.

“The legal work and administrative procedures for the release of the English tanker have been completed but I have no information on the time of the release,” said spokesman Ali Rabiei, according to semi-official news agency ILNA.

Relations between the United States, its allies and Iran have become more strained since Washington withdrew last year from a global pact aimed at reining in Tehran’s nuclear programme and imposed sanctions on it aimed at shutting down Iranian oil exports. (Reporting by Johan Ahlander, editing by Ed Osmond)

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