Iran seized a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on Friday, the latest confrontation in three months of escalating tensions between Iran and the West.
Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that the Iranian authorities had also seized another tanker, adding that he was “extremely concerned” and that British officials were working “to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.”
But Iran quickly disputed that account, saying that the second tanker “was not seized,” according to Fars, the nation’s semiofficial news agency.
Instead, it said, the second ship “was given a warning by Iran’s armed forces about observing environment regulations and safety precautions and it went on its way.”
The ship’s manager, Norbulk Shipping UK, said in a statement that the vessel “was boarded by armed personnel” on Friday, but that it was later released and allowed to continue its voyage. No one was injured, it said.
Mr. Hunt said the Iranian actions were “unacceptable,” adding, “It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”
He said the ships’ crews included “a range of nationalities, but we understand there are no British citizens on board either ship.” He said the British ambassador to Iran had been in communication with the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
The seizure came a day after the United States said it had downed an Iranian drone in the area, which the Iranians denied, and after weeks of dispute between Britain and Iran over Britain’s seizure of an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar. Iran had vowed to retaliate.