Britain's seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar last week will not be "unanswered", Iran's armed forces chief of staff, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, said on Tuesday, July 9, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
"Capture of the Iranian oil tanker based on fabricated excuses ... will not be unanswered and when necessary Tehran will give appropriate answer," Bagheri said, The Telegraph reports.
Iran’s foreign ministry accused Britain of “piracy” and summoned the British ambassador in Tehran after Royal Marines helped customs officers impound the Grace 1 supertanker near Gibraltar on Thursday.
The British and Gibraltarian governments said the ship, owned by a Dubai-based company with ties to Tehran, was believed to be carrying two million barrels of crude oil to Syria, in breach of European Union sanctions against Bashar Assad’s regime.
On Friday Gibraltar's Supreme Court granted an order to the territory's authorities allowing them to hold the tanker for another fortnight.
The Gibraltar government said the ruling had been made on the basis that there were "reasonable grounds" to believe the ship was breaking EU sanctions by transporting oil to Syria.
On Friday, an Iranian general warned the country could seize a British ship in retaliation.
"If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities' duty to seize a British oil tanker," Mohsen Rezai, a Major General in the Revolutionary Guards Corps and head of the country’s influential Expediency Council, which advises the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"Islamic Iran in its 40-year history has never initiated hostilities in any battles but has also never hesitated in responding to bullies," Maj Gen Rezai added.