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U.K.-Flagged Tanker's Owner Says Iran Could Release Vessel 'Within Hours'

AT SEA -- Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at undisclosed place off the coast of Bandar Abbas, August 22, 2019


The chief executive of the company that owns a British-flagged oil tanker that was seized along with its crew by Iran in July says he's been told that the vessel could be released "within a few hours."

Swedish shipowner Stena Bulk's CEO, Erik Hanell, did not specify who had provided the information, according to a statement made to Sweden's public broadcaster and quoted by Reuters on September 22.

"We have received information now this morning that it seems like they will release the ship Stena Impero within a few hours," Hanell reportedly told SVT. "So we understand that the political decision to release the ship has been taken."

The news came hours after Iranian President Hassan Rohani appeared to try to wrest some diplomatic initiative over security in the region, saying he would take an Iranian plan for Gulf security to the United Nations.

There were 23 crew members of Indian, Russian, Latvian, and Filipino nationalities aboard the Stena Impero when it was seized in the Strait of Hormuz.

Seven of them were released in early September, while the others have reportedly remained aboard the ship off Bandar Abbas.

Iranian authorities accused the Stena Impero and its crew of failing to observe international maritime law at the time of its seizure on July 19, two weeks after British forces near Gibraltar captured an Iranian oil tanker that has since been released and renamed the Adrian Darya 1.

It is a charge that has been adamantly rejected by the 183-meter-long, 50,000-deadweight-ton Stena Impero's owner and its operator.

The Gibraltar and Hormuz seizures came with tensions already ratcheted up by confrontations between Western and Iranian naval and commercial ships in the strategic Persian Gulf region that is a conduit for around one-fifth of the world's oil supplies.

U.S. President Donald Trump has launched a naval escort campaign to defend commercial shipping interests in the Persian Gulf against harassment and illegal interference, with support from Australia, Britain, and other Western and Gulf states.

Tehran has denied accusations of harassment and repeatedly warned that outside presences in the region bring instability and insecurity, most recently in a televised speech to the nation by Rohani on September 22 that included word of his plan for Gulf security and cooperation.

World leaders gather this week in New York for the 74th UN General Assembly, which begins on September 24.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP