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Britain planning 'European-led protection force' in Gulf amid Iran tensions

The move comes after Iranian authorities seized a British-flagged tanker [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 July, 2019

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British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday said the UK wants to establish a European-led maritime protection force for the Gulf.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday said the UK wants to establish a European-led maritime protection force for the Gulf.

"We will now seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to support the safe passage of both crew and cargo in this vital region," Hunt told parliament.

The move comes after Iranian authorities seized a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.

Iranian officials have said that the seizure of the tanker was a "reciprocal move" following the seizure by Britain of an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar.

Hunt emphasised that London was not seeking a confrontation with Iran but called the seizure of the Stena Impero and its 23 crew "an act of state piracy."

He gave no details of the new mission, but said Britain would "take appropriate action to support the safe passage of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz."

Hunt stressed that Britain's moves were not part of the United States' policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran.

The escalation comes more than a year after Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and began ratcheting up sanctions against Tehran.

European nations still adhere to the international nuclear deal with Iran that the US has withdrawn from.

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