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British tanker Stena Impero remains in Iran

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The British-flagged tanker Stena Impero detained by Iran in July remains in that country even though it has been legally cleared to leave, the tanker’s Swedish owner Stena Bulk said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, Iran August 22, 2019. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo

Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, said on Monday that the vessel was free to depart after legal hurdles were cleared and this was confirmed by Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization.

“The detention order on Stena Impero had been lifted and the vessel is going through proceedings to leave Bandar Abbas port,” Rastad was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ILNA.

Stena Bulk Chief Executive Erik Hanell said the tanker was still in Iran.

“Despite public statements by Iranian authorities over the past three days that judicial proceedings have concluded, and the Stena Impero is free to leave Iran, the vessel remains detained at anchor in Bandar Abbas,” Hanell said in a statement.

“We continue to work hard to secure the release of the crew and vessel.”

Iran’s seizure of the Stena Impero on July 19 for alleged marine violations, 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. The Iranian vessel was released in August.

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

Relations between the United States, its allies and Iran have become more strained since Washington withdrew last year from a global pact to rein in Tehran’s nuclear programme and imposed sanctions on the country that were aimed at shutting down Iranian oil exports.

Asked about accusations that Iran had taken the British tanker hostage, Rastad said: “There is no hostage-taking. According to the law, the ship was detained because of violations, and... the rules are to first impose a detention order and then investigate the violations and issue a ruling,” ILNA reported.

Rastad said the tanker had posted “guarantees and a bail” before having its detention order lifted because it still faced unspecified charges over its alleged violations, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Anna Ringstrom, additional reporting by Dubai Newsroom, editing by Bernadette Baum and Ed Osmond