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Gibraltar Says Iran Tanker Can Leave But U.S. Legal Block Still Looms

A view of the Grace-1 supertanker is seen against the backdrop of Gibraltar's Rock, as it stands at anchor in the British territory of Gibraltar, August 15, 2019

An Iranian supertanker detained in Gibraltar for breaching EU sanctions could be allowed to leave on Friday, but a last minute U.S. legal bid to stop it could yet end up back in court, the territory's first minister said.

Gibraltar's supreme court decided on Thursday to free Grace-1 detained since July 4, but did not immediately indicate when or if the ship would set sail after the United States launched a last-minute legal bid to hold it.

"She is able to leave as soon as she organizes the logistics necessary in order to sail a ship of that size wherever it's going next," Fabian Picardo told BBC Radio. "Could be today, could be tomorrow."

Asked about the U.S. request, he said: "Those will be determinations made purely objectively and independently by those authorities and then subject to once again the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar. It could go back to the court absolutely."

Meanwhile, the deputy head of Iran's port authority, Jalil Eslami told Iran's state broadcaster on Thursday, "The vessel was under Panama flag when it was detained and then Panama took away its flag during the detention. For this reason and based on the wishes of the owner, the ship is now under the Islamic republic of Iran flag and the name is changes to Adrian Doria (or Daria - Persian pronunciation not clear).

He reiterated that the destination of the ship in the Mediterranean has also changed, but did not provide any further details.

Gibraltar seized the ship on the grounds that it was transporting oil to Syria, which is a violation of EU sanctions.

In making the decision to free the ship Gibraltar said it has received written guarantees from Iran the tanker will not go to Syria. Later, the Iranian ambassador in Britain denied his country had made any commitments.

With reporting by Reuters