UK to Develop Europe-Led Plan against Iran Piracy

LONDON - Britain has announced plans to develop and deploy a Europe-led "maritime protection mission" to safeguard shipping in the vital Strait of Hormuz in light of Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the waterway last week.

Briefing Parliament on the budding crisis, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused Iran of "an act of state piracy" that must be met with a co-ordinated international reaction.

Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesperson, James Slack, said Iran has seized a ship under false and illegal pretences and it needs to release it and its crew immediately.

Iranian officials suggested the Stena Impero was seized and taken to an Iranian port in response to Britain's role in seizing an Iranian oil tanker two weeks earlier off the coast of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain.

Hunt announced few details of the proposed protection mission, but said Britain's European allies will play a major role in keeping shipping lanes open. One-fifth of all global crude exports passes through the narrow strait between Iran and Oman.

Also, Iran has released new video showing the ship's crew for the first time, an apparent attempt to show they were unharmed. None of the 23 are British nationals but are mostly Indian and also Filipino, Russian and Latvian nationals.

The foreign secretary said Iran must understand that its actions will only lead to a bigger Western military footprint in the region. "It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing this increased international presence in the Gulf, because the focus of our diplomacy has been on de-escalating tensions in the hope that such changes would not be necessary," Hunt said.
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