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September 22, 2019 11:54 am

Iran May Release British-Flagged Tanker Within Hours, Swedish Owner Says

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned by Stena Bulk, is seen at Bandar Abbas port, July 21, 2019. Photo: Iran, Mizan News Agency/WANA Handout via REUTERS/File Photo.

Stena Impero, the British-flagged tanker detained by Iran on July 19, may be released within hours, the head of the Swedish firm that owns the vessel said on Sunday.

The Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT quoted Stena Bulk Chief Executive Erik Hanell as saying: “We have received information now this morning that it seems like they will release the ship Stena Impero within a few hours. So we understand that the political decision to release the ship has been taken.”

“We hope to be able to head out within a few hours, but we don’t want to anticipate events. We want to see that the ship sails out of Iranian territorial waters,” Hanell told SVT, adding that his information came from Iranian authorities.

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Hanell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Swedish radio reported that he was currently traveling to Iran, according to Stena Bulk spokespersons.

Stena Bulk spokesman Will Marks declined to confirm the company had been informed of a possible release on Sunday.

“The vessel is still being held and the negotiations are ongoing, and until we have official confirmation and the vessel is lifting up its anchor and sailing out of Iranian waters we can’t confirm anything else,” he told Reuters.

On Sept. 4, Iran released seven of the vessel’s 23 crew members. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at the time that Sweden had been in daily contact with Iran at a high political level since the vessel was seized.

Britain called on Iran to release the ship and its remaining crew immediately.

“Iran’s illegal seizure of a ship inside an internationally recognized shipping lane is unacceptable and undermines international law,” a spokesperson for the British government said in an email.

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