Iran’s supreme leader promises response to seizure of Grace 1 tanker

By David Hughes, PA Political Editor

The UK called for calm in the Gulf after Iran’s top leader vowed to retaliate over the seizure of the Grace 1 supertanker by Royal Marines and the authorities in Gibraltar.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the seizure of the Iranian tanker “piracy” and added: “God willing, the Islamic Republic and its committed forces will not leave this evilness without a response.”

Downing Street said the UK’s position had been “repeatedly stressed” to Tehran.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have been consistent: escalation in the Gulf is not in anyone’s interests.

“We have repeatedly stressed that to the Iranians.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence said Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and tanker RFA Wave Knight would deploy to the Gulf later this year as part of Operation Kipion, the UK’s mission in the region.

Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose is currently in the region but is due to undergo maintenance and crew change, with Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan travelling to the Gulf to take over the continuous security presence.

HMS Kent will replace HMS Duncan later this year.

Approximately 1,200 personnel are deployed in the region along with seven Royal Navy and support ships, including Montrose and Duncan.

There have been heightened tensions in the Gulf recently.

Supertanker Grace 1 during the operation to seize it (MoD/PA)

Last week, HMS Montrose intervened to drive off Iranian patrol boats after they approached a British tanker as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz.

The seizure of Grace 1 has fuelled the row, although the UK has stressed that its interception by the Gibraltar authorities was due to suspicions it was about to break EU sanctions against Syria by shipping oil to the country.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has offered to facilitate the release of Grace 1 in return for guarantees from Tehran that it would not breach sanctions on Bashar Assad’s regime.