Islamabad will do its utmost to enable talks between Tehran and Riyadh, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan says in Tehran, adding that he will travel on to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to help calm tensions between regional stalwarts.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Tehran, Iran, October 13, 2019.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Tehran, Iran, October 13, 2019. (Reuters)

Sunday, October 13

'Pakistan doesn't want conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia' – Khan

Pakistan will do its utmost to enable talks between arch regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in Tehran, adding that he will travel on to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

"Pakistan does not want conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia...I am happy to facilitate talks between Tehran and Riyadh...I am very hopeful as I had constructive talks with the (Iranian) president," Khan told a joint news conference with President Hassan Rouhani, broadcast live on state TV.

Khan arrived in Tehran on Sunday and he will later meet Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

Khan said last month that both the United States and Saudi Arabia had asked him to mediate with Iran to calm tensions in the Gulf.

Pakistan has strong relations with Saudi Arabia, with more than 2.5 million of its nationals living and working in the kingdom.

But it also maintains good relations with Iran and represents Tehran's consular interests in the United States.

Friday, October 11

US to deploys 3,000 troops to Saudi Arabia

The United States announced on Friday a new, large deployment of forces to Saudi Arabia to help bolster the kingdom's defenses following the Sept. 14 attack on its oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran.

The planned deployment, which was first reported by Reuters, will include fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, and air defence personnel, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon said it was sending two additional Patriot batteries and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).

"Taken together with other deployments, this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorised within the last month," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement.

It was unclear whether some of the newly announced troops might replace other American forces expected to depart the region in the coming weeks or months.

The Pentagon has yet to announce, for example, whether it will replace the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its strike group when it eventually wraps up its deployment to the Middle East.

The deployment is part of a series of what the United States has described as defensive moves following the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities last month, which rattled global energy markets and exposed major gaps in Saudi Arabia's air defences.

Iran says two missiles hit tanker off Saudi coast

Iran's state-run news agency says two rockets struck an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Saudi Arabia.

IRNA quoted a statement from Iran's national oil tanker firm as saying an attack targeted a tanker it identified as the Sabity.

It said the attack happened early on Friday morning.

The crew were all reported safe and the fire under control.

There was no immediate response from Saudi Arabia. 

The US Navy's 5th Fleet, which oversees the Mideast, says it was aware of the incident, but declined to immediately comment further.

Wednesday, October 2

Iran's Rouhani says French plan for talks broadly acceptable

A plan for talks presented to the United States and Iran by French President Emmanuel Macron is broadly acceptable to Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting that was broadcast live.

He said some wording needed to be changed in the plan, which outlines that Iran will not pursue nuclear weapons and will help the security of the region and its waterways, while Washington will remove all sanctions. It would also allow Iran to immediately resume oil sales.

But Rouhani also told the cabinet meeting, broadcast on state TV, that mixed messages about sanctions received from the United States while he was there last week had undermined the possibility of talks. 

Rouhani attended the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Monday, September 30

Iran would welcome if Riyadh is 'pursuing change of behaviour'

Saudi Arabia has sent messages to Iran's president through the leaders of other countries, an Iranian government spokesman said on Monday, at a time of heightened tensions between the regional rivals.

"Messages from the Saudis were presented to [Iran's President] Hassan Rouhani from the leaders of some countries," spokesman Ali Rabiei said, according to the semi-official ILNA news agency. 

"If Saudi Arabia is really pursuing a change of behaviour, Iran welcomes that," he added

Rabiei did not give any information on what the messages contained.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince warned in an interview broadcast on Sunday that oil prices could spike to "unimaginably high numbers" if the world doesn't come together to deter Iran, but said he preferred a political solution to a military one.

Top Iran general says destroying Israel 'achievable goal'

The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said that destroying arch-rival Israel was an "achievable goal".

"This sinister regime must be wiped off the map and this is no longer ... a dream (but) it is an achievable goal," Major General Hossein Salami said, quoted by the Guards' Sepah news site.

Sunday, September 29

End war in Yemen – Iran tells Saudi Arabia

Iran's foreign minister has urged arch-rival, Saudi Arabia, to accept that "security cannot be bought", saying an end to the war in Yemen would quell regional tensions.

In an interview with Tehran's official IRNA news agency on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the Saudi leadership of stirring up strife.

"They think that, in the same way that they have so far bought everything with money and have managed to buy weapons, friendship and support, they can buy security with money as well," he said, urging Riyadh to "put aside this illusion".

Zarif told IRNA that Riyadh was stirring tensions in order to "open (the way) for foreigners to enter the region".

The US has several major military bases in the Gulf and has threatened strikes in retaliation for attacks it has blamed on the Islamic republic.

Zarif said the solution "is absolutely clear and that is an end to the Yemen war".

Saturday, September 28

A British-flagged oil tanker which was seized by Iran, docked in Dubai's Port Rashid on Saturday, a day after it was released by Tehran.  

Iran seized the tanker in July as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20% of all oil passes.

The ship, the Stena Impero, set sail from Iran on Friday morning, arriving at an anchorage outside Port Rashid in the United Arab Emirates just before midnight.

The tanker's Swedish-based ship-owning company Stena Bulk said the crew would disembark in Dubai for medical checks and debriefing, and to spend some time with their families.

Friday, September 27

Trump says refused to lift sanctions for Iran meeting

US President Donald Trump said he had refused a request by Tehran to lift sanctions in exchange for talks, contradicting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who earlier on Friday said the United States had offered to lift restrictions to facilitate a meeting.

"Iran wanted me to lift the sanctions imposed on them in order to meet. I said, of course, NO!" Trump tweeted.

Earlier today, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the US offered to remove all sanctions on Iran in exchange for talks but Tehran has not yet accepted the offer due to the current "toxic atmosphere".

Rouhani, speaking on his return from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, said he met there with US officials at the insistence of Germany, Britain and France.

Iran was ready for negotiations but not in an atmosphere of sanctions and pressure, he said.

UK tanker leaves Bandar Abbas port

The British-flagged Stena Impero tanker, detained by Iran in July, has started moving and exited the Bandar Abbas port, according to Refinitiv ship-tracking data.

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 the territory of Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August.

A spokesman for the ship's owner, Stena Bulk of Sweden, said on Friday that the vessel was preparing to leave.

Thursday, September 26

Pentagon to send radar, missiles to bolster Saudi defences

The Pentagon announced the deployment of 200 troops with Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia to help with the country's defence in the wake of last months attacks on oil installations blamed on Iran.

"This deployment will augment the kingdom's air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

Two more Patriot batteries and a THAAD missile defence system will be prepared to go later if needed.

The four Sentinel radar systems and the Patriot battery are designed to provide better surveillance coverage across northern Saudi Arabia. The bulk of the kingdom's Patriot batteries and other defences are focused on the south to protect the country from attacks by Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen.  

US military said it was also putting additional capabilities on "prepare to deploy orders", meaning they could be mobilised more quickly in a crisis.

New nuclear deal breach, says IAEA

Iran has started using advanced models of centrifuges to enrich uranium, the UN's nuclear watchdog said, in a new breach of the faltering 2015 deal with world powers.

Advanced centrifuges at Iran's Natanz facility "were accumulating, or had been prepared to accumulate, enriched uranium", the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report seen by AFP.

Under the 2015 deal with world powers that put curbs on Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, Tehran is only meant to enrich uranium using less efficient IR-1 centrifuges.

China criticises new US sanctions over Iranian oil deals

China criticised the US for imposing new sanctions on Chinese entities and people suspected of transferring oil from Iran, accusing Washington of "bullying".

China's cooperation with Iran is legitimate and legal, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

China, which is already embroiled in a trade dispute with the United States, responded that its dealings with Iran were legal and should be respected.

"We always oppose the so-called long-arm jurisdiction and unilateral sanctions," spokesman Geng said. "We also oppose the bullying practice of the US." 

He urged Washington "to correct its wrongdoing."

Wednesday, September 25

Erdogan calls for caution over blaming Iran for Saudi attacks

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for caution over blaming Iran for this month's attack on a Saudi Arabian oil facility in an interview with Fox News.

"I don't think it would be the right thing to do to blame Iran," Erdogan said.

"We need to recognise the fact that attacks of this scale come from several parts of Yemen.

"If we just place the entire burden on Iran, it wouldn't be the right way to go because the evidence available does not necessarily point to that fact," he added.

Erdogan also criticised US sanctions on Iran, saying such measures "have never solved anything".

He denied allegations that Turkey had helped Iran bypass sanctions in the past, saying these were allegations by government opponents.

"These are the allegations voiced by a terrorist organisation known as FETO who are behind the failed coup of July 2016 in Turkey," Erdogan told Fox News.

"These allegations are more than wrong, these are all produced propaganda by the FETO terrorist organisation."

US sanctions Chinese companies for Iran oil imports – Pompeo

The US on Wednesday announced sanctions on Chinese companies for buying Iranian oil, stepping up pressure despite European attempts to arrange talks between Washington and Tehran.

Speaking to a pressure group opposed to the Iranian regime on the sidelines of the United Nations, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the actions were in response to violations of unilateral US sanctions.

"We're telling China, and all nations – know that we will sanction every violation of sanctions of all activity," Pompeo told United Against a Nuclear Iran.

He said that sanctions were being placed both on the companies and on their chief executives.

Pompeo said that the US was also aiming to split the elite Revolutionary Guards from the rest of the Iranian company.

Iran still holding British tanker despite lifting detention order

British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero is still being held in Iran, despite Tehran lifting a detention order on the vessel, its owner said on Wednesday.

Sweden's Stena Bulk said it was not in negotiations with Iran and not aware of any formal charges against the crew or the company.

"We haven't been accused of anything. Not through any formal letter or anything else to the company. We are still in the dark over why we are anchored in Bandar Abbas," said Stena Bulk CEO Erik Hanell.

He said the ship was fuelled and ready to sail for a port in the UAE as soon as it was cleared to leave.

Iran's defence minister rejects any deal on missile programme

Iran's defence minister Wednesday rejected the idea of a deal with world powers over the country's missile programme.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Gen. Amir Hatami as saying that any deal with the US over Iran's "missile power" would damage the country's capabilities. He said Iran's leaders all support improving the missile program.

Separately, the chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard in charge of the country's missile program, Gen. Hossein Salami, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying Wednesday that Iran has shown self-restraint despite the capabilities of its military, including its missile program.

"We are not looking for trouble but we will respond to troublemakers," he said.

Referring to Iran-backed Houthi rebel attacks on Saudi Arabia, Salami said Iran has improved its military power to the extent that other countries blame it for actions carried out by the rebels themselves.

"The enemy assumes that we are in charge of any sophisticated job," he said. Without elaborating, he added that the Houthis were capable of "changing the entire field of war".

Iran gives final green light for British-flagged tanker to leave

British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, seized by Iran more than two months ago, was Wednesday given the final clearance to leave, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

He tweeted that "the lifting of the seizure of the vessel Stena Impero was finalised today" after a procedure coordinated by the foreign ministry, Iran's judiciary and its port and maritime authorities.

But a legal case "remains open", he said. "The captain and the owners have signed a written commitment to accept the verdict" handed down at the end of proceedings.

Iran ready to accept nuclear deal changes if US lifts sanctions – spokesman

Iran is willing to give reassurances on not seeking nuclear arms and accept changes to its 2015 nuclear accord with world power if the US returns to the deal and lifts sanctions, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

"If the sanctions are ended and there is a return to the (nuclear) accord, there is room for giving reassurances towards breaking the deadlock and the President (Hassan Rouhani) has even a proposal for small changes in the accord," the spokesman, Ali Rabiei, said on state TV.

Iran says detention of British tanker lifted but investigation of ship ongoing

Iran's foreign ministry said a detention order on the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero was lifted on Wednesday, but added that an investigation into the vessel was ongoing.

"The lifting of the detention order against Steno Impero was finalised today, but the investigation of some of its violations and environmental damage remains open," ministry spokesman Mousavi said in a tweet.

"The owner and captain of the ship have made a written commitment to accept the court's decision in this regard," he said.

British tanker Stena Impero still held in Iran – owner

Iranian authorities have yet to release the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero even though the vessel, seized by Iranian forces in July, has been cleared to leave port, its Swedish owner said on Wednesday.

"At this point we are simply waiting for the guards onboard to leave and for the ship to receive clearance to sail," Stena Bulk Chief Executive Hanell said in a text message.

Tuesday, September 24

Japan's Abe urges Iran to take actions that are 'grounded in wisdom'

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday expressed concerns about the Middle East situation and urged Iran to take actions "grounded in the wisdom derived from its rich history".

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Abe called the Sept. 15 attacks on Saudi oil facilities "an extremely contemptible crime that holds the international economic order hostage".

He did not, however, specify who Japan thought was behind the attacks, which Riyadh, Washington and the leading EU powers have blamed on Iran. Japan has traditionally had friendly ties with Iran and Abe has been trying to ease the tensions between Tehran and Tokyo's closest ally, Washington.

"It is my own unchanging role to call on Iran as a major power to take actions that are grounded in the wisdom derived from its rich history," Abe said, noting that Japan shared concerns regarding the Middle East situation.

Abe met Iranian President Rouhani earlier in the day.

Macron says Trump, Rouhani know conditions for talks, but up to them to deliver

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he believed that the conditions for the leaders of the United States and Iran to meet were now in place, but the ball was now in their court to make it happen.

"I believe that the conditions in this context for a rapid return to negotiations have been created," Macron told reporters before heading back to Paris from New York, where he attended the annual United Nations General Assembly.

"It's now up to the Iranians and the United States to seize these conditions and work together to relaunch momentum."

Britain's Johnson, in talks with Iran's Rouhani, urges release of imprisoned dual nationals

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the immediate release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals imprisoned in Iran during a meeting with Iran's President Rouhani in New York on Tuesday, a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement.

Johnson also "raised our deep concern about Iran's destabilising activity in the region, including the attacks on the Aramco oil facilities, and insisted this must stop," the spokesperson said. He stressed support for the Iran nuclear deal and the need for dialogue, "including on a comprehensive successor deal."

France, Britain urge Iran's Rouhani to meet Trump -UK press pool

French President Macron said on Tuesday it would be a lost opportunity if Iranian President Rouhani left the United States without meeting US President Trump, according to a UK press pool report.

"What is important is that if he leaves the country without meeting with President Trump, this is a lost opportunity. Because he will not come back in a few months. And President Trump will not go to Tehran so they have t o meet now," Macron said during a meeting with Rouhani and British Prime Minister Johnson.

Johnson concurred, according to the report, saying: "I think I agree with Emmanuel. You need to be on the side of the swimming pool and jump at the same time."

The leaders are attending the annual United Nations General Assembly this week in New York.

Trump must restore trust before any talks: Rouhani

Rouhani said Tuesday that his US counterpart Trump needed to restore trust before the possibility of a meeting.

"We must create mutual trust," Rouhani told Fox News, which Trump regularly watches, after the US leader criticised Iran before the UN General Assembly.

"If the government of the United States of America is willing to talk, it must create the needed conditions," he said.

Trump vows pressure on Iran as mediation hopes dim at UN

Trump on Tuesday threatened to intensify sanctions on Iran, as hopes dimmed among world leaders gathered at the United Nations for a breakthrough in reducing tensions.

The leaders of France, Germany and Japan and Pakistan were all meeting separately with Trump and Iran's Rouhani, fanning speculation that the pair -- whose nations have been arch-enemies for four decades -- could have a historic encounter in New York.

But in a speech full of praise of unilateralism and criticism of China, Trump made clear he would not ease economic pressure on Iran -- a condition set by Rouhani for any meeting.

"As long as Iran's menacing behaviour continues, sanctions will not be lifted. They will be tightened," Trump told the General Assembly.

"All nations have a duty to act. No responsible government should subsidise Iran's bloodlust," Trump said.

Trump asks Pakistan's Khan to mediate with Iran

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that US President Trump had asked him to mediate with Iran to defuse tensions.

"Trump asked me that if we could de-escalate the situation and maybe come up with another deal," Khan told reporters at the United Nations after meeting both Trump and Iranian President Rouhani.

"I can't say anything right now more than this, except that we are trying and mediating." 

Iran rejects UK, France and Germany statements on Saudi attacks

Iran said on Tuesday that a statement by Britain, France and Germany accusing it of responsibility for attacks on Saudi oil facilities showed that they lacked the will to confront US "bullying", the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

"The statement showed that the European parties have no strength or willpower to counter US bullying," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mousavi was quoted as saying.

"These allegations, which lack evidence, are based solely on a ridiculous rationale that 'there is no other possible explanation'," Iran's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Seized British tanker still in Iran

British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, detained by Iran in July, remains in that country even as Iranian officials have said it was free to leave, Erik Hanell, chief executive of the tanker's Swedish owner Stena Bulk said on Tuesday.

Iran's ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, had said in a Twitter post on Monday that the vessel was free to leave after legal hurdles had been cleared.

"The detention order on Stena Impero had been lifted and the vessel is going through the proceedings to leave Bandar Abbas" port, Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the semi-official news agency ILNA.

"She has moved during her time there to get fresh water, among other things, but is still in Bandar Abbas," Hanell said in a text message, adding he had no information as to why the ship had not left Iran.

UK, France and Germany blame Iran for Saudi oil attacks

Britain, France and Germany joined the United States on Monday in blaming Iran for attacks on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, but the Iranian foreign minister pointed to claims of responsibility by Yemeni rebels and said: "If Iran were behind this attack, nothing would have been left of this refinery."

The leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany released a statement reaffirming their support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the US exited, but telling Iran to stop breaching it and saying "there is no other plausible explanation" than that "Iran bears responsibility for this attack."

They pledged to try to ease tensions in the Middle East and urged Iran to "refrain from choosing provocation and escalation."

Monday, September 23

Iran says seized British-flagged tanker free to leave

Iran said British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero is "free" to leave more than two months after it was seized in the Gulf.

"The legal process has finished and based on that the conditions for letting the oil tanker go free have been fulfilled and the oil tanker can move," government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a news conference.

He did not specify when the Swedish-owned vessel would be allowed to set sail.

"We understand that the political decision has been taken to release the ship," Stena Bulk's chief executive Hanell told Swedish television station SVT.

"We hope it will be able to leave in a few hours, but we don't want to take anything for granted.

Iran calls for rival Gulf security coalition

Iran's president says his country will offer its own rival security coalition in the Persian Gulf, as the US sends more troops to Saudi Arabia and heads its own regional military coalition.

Rouhani, before travelling to attend the UN meetings, said on Monday that Iran will invite "all littoral states of the Persian Gulf" to join its coalition "to guarantee the region's security."

He says the initiative is not limited to "security" but also encompasses economic cooperation and will be presented in detail at the UN.

UK says Iran responsible for attack on Saudi oil facilities
Johnson says Britain has concluded Iran was responsible for attacks on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, and the UK will consider taking part in a US-led military effort to bolster the Gulf kingdom's defences.

But Johnson also says the UK will work with allies to "de-escalate" Mideast tensions.

Saudi Arabia and the US also blame Iran.

USemphasises diplomacy

The US said it will make its case against Iran at the UN this week, insisting it wants to give diplomacy "every opportunity to succeed" in the wake of a devastating attack on a vital Saudi oil complex.

"President Trump and I both want to give diplomacy every opportunity to succeed," said Secretary of State Pompeo.

"But make no mistake about it, if we're unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives."

Pompeo, meanwhile, said the US sanctions campaign was just getting started.

Sunday, September 22

Rouhani tells West to leave the Gulf

Iran's president has called on Western powers to leave the security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by Tehran, criticizing a new US-led coalition patrolling the region's waterways.

Rouhani said that the US and Western nations should "distance" themselves from the region. 

"Your presence has always been a calamity for this region and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region," he said.

He promised to unveil a regional peace plan at this week's upcoming high-level meetings at the United Nations.

Pompeo says US mission is to avoid war with Iran

The United States aims to avoid war with Iran and the additional troops ordered to be deployed in the Gulf region are for "deterrence and defence," Pompeo said on Sunday.

Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Pompeo added that he was confident that Trump would take action if such deterrence measures fail and this was well understood by the Iranian leadership. 

Iran may release British-flagged tanker 

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.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT quoted Stena Bulk Chief Executive 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.

Foreign forces raise 'insecurity' in Gulf - Rouhani

Rouhani said on Sunday that the presence of foreign forces creates "insecurity" in the Gulf after the US ordered the deployment of more troops to the region.

"Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region," Rouhani said in a televised speech at an annual military parade, adding that Iran would present to the UN a regional cooperation plan for peace.

Rouhani called on the foreign powers in the Gulf region to "stay away".

"If they're sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race," he said.

"Your presence has always brought pain and misery for the region. The farther you keep yourselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be for our region."

Rouhani said Iran would present a plan for peace to the United Nations in the coming days.

Saturday, September 21

Saudi Arabia to take "appropriate steps"

Saudi Arabia will take appropriate steps to respond to an attack on its oil facilities if its investigation confirms that Iran was responsible, a senior official said on Saturday.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al Jubeir said the probe would prove that the September 14 strikes came from the north and that Iran bore responsibility, a charge Tehran denies.

"The kingdom will take the appropriate measures based on the results of the investigation, to ensure its security and stability," Jubeir told a news conference, declining to speculate about specific actions.

"We are certain that the launch did not come from Yemen, it came from the north. The investigations will prove that."

Riyadh has rejected a claim by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement that it carried out the strikes on two oil plants that initially halved Saudi production, the largest-ever assault on oil facilities in the world's top oil exporter.

US to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia and UAE

The Pentagon says the US will deploy additional troops and military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to beef up security, as Trump has at least for now decided against any immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attack on the Saudi oil industry.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper says this is a first step, and he is not ruling out additional moves down the road. He says it's a response to requests from the Saudis and the UAE to help improve their air and missile defences.

Esper and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said details of the deployments will be determined over the coming days.

Saudi Aramco sees full oil production by end Sept

Saudi state oil company Aramco said it will bring back by end September full crude output at Abqaiq and Khurais, the two oil facilities damaged by attacks last weekend that US officials have blamed on Iran.

Aramco is shipping equipment from the United States and Europe to rebuild the damaged facilities, Fahad Abdulkarim, Aramco's general manager for the southern area oil operation, told reporters on a tour organised by the company to the two sites east of the capital Riyadh.

Reuters reporters were shown repair work underway at both locations, with cranes erected around burnt-out stabilisation columns, which form part of oil-gas separation units.

"We are working 24/7," Abdulkarim said in Khurais. “This is a beehive."

Trump says new sanctions on Iran

Trump says his administration is imposing additional sanctions on Iran following last weekend's attack on Saudi oil facilities, which the administration has blamed on Iran.

Speaking in the Oval Office on Friday during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Trump said, "We have just sanctioned the Iranian national bank."

The US has already applied an arsenal of sanctions on Iran since the administration withdrew in November from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Still, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the latest sanctions demonstrate the US is continuing a maximum pressure campaign, asserting "we have now cut off all funds to Iran."

Saudi vows quick recovery despite damage to oil plant

Saudi Arabia vowed on Friday oil production will be quickly restored as it revealed extensive damage to the Khurais oilfield following weekend aerial strikes, which have been blamed on Iran by Washington.

"We will have production at the same level as before the strike by the end of this month ⁠— we are coming back stronger," asserted Fahad al Abdulkareem, a general manager for Saudi Aramco.

He said there were as many as 300 people on-site at the time of the aerial strikes early on Saturday morning.

"The whole thing ... happened, with four strikes and explosions, with no single injury to any [staff]," he said, as he inspected damage.

Saudi Arabia shows attack site it says Iran hit

Saudi Arabia has taken journalists to the site of a missile-and-drone attack on a facility at the heart of the kingdom's oil industry.

Journalists arrived on Friday to Buqayq in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, home to the Abqaiq oil processing facility.

Friday prayer leader says Iran is greater than its borders

Iran is not limited to a "geographical location" as the Iran-backed factions around the region are "all Iran" now, high-ranking cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda said on Friday.

"Iran, today, is not only Iran and not limited to a geographical location. Iraq's Hashd al Shaabi, Lebanon's Hezbollah, Yemen's Ansarullah, Syria's National Defence Forces, Palestine's Islamic jihad and Hamas are all Iran," the semi-official news agency ISNA quoted the ultra-conservative Alamolhoda as saying during a Friday prayer sermon.

Kuwait raises security levels at ports

Kuwait says it has raised security levels at its ports given ongoing regional tensions following an attack on Saudi Arabia.

The state-run KUNA news agency reported the decision on Friday, quoting Kuwait's minister of commerce and industry as making the announcement.

Khaled al Roudhan said it affected both commercial ports and oil facilities.

Iran oil minister inspects cybersecurity at key refinery

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh discussed cybersecurity and production bottlenecks during a visit to a major refinery and petrochemical plants on Iran's Gulf coast on Friday, the official news agency IRNA reported.

"Investigating the refinery's civil defence situation and related topics is among the goals ... of the oil minister's one-day trip to Bandar Abbas," IRNA reported.

Iran's civil defence body is in charge of issues including cybersecurity.

IRNA said Zanganeh inspected several petrochemical plants and the 350,000-barrels per day Persian Gulf Star refinery, which helped Iran declare self-sufficiency in gasoline after the inauguration of its third phase in February.

US military to present options on Iran

The Pentagon will present a broad range of military options to President Trump on Friday as he considers how to respond to what administration officials say was an unprecedented Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia's oil industry.

In a White House meeting, the Republican president will be presented with a list of potential air strike targets inside Iran, among other possible responses, and he will be warned that military action against the Islamic Republic could escalate into war, according to US officials familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Houthis accuse Saudi-led coalition of 'dangerous escalation'

The Yemeni Houthi movement on Friday accused the Saudi-led coalition of a dangerous escalation of the situation around Hudaida after coalition forces attacked targets north of the port city.

The actions threatened a UN-brokered ceasefire accord in the Red Sea port, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam said.

The Saudi-led coalition on Friday launched a military operation north of Hudaida against what it described as "legitimate military targets."

A coalition spokesman said attacks had destroyed four sites used to assemble remote-controlled boats and sea mines to help protect the freedom of maritime navigation.

"The concentrated raids on Hudaida constitute a dangerous escalation that could blow up the Sweden agreement," the Houthi spokesman said on Twitter. "The coalition will bear the responsibility of this escalation which is also a test to the United Nations."

Top Iran commander threatens broad response to any US plots

A senior Revolutionary Guard commander said on Friday Iran would respond from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean against any US plots, the state news agency IRNA reported, amid heightened tensions after attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure.

"If the Americans think of any plots, the Iranian nation will respond from the Mediterranean, to the Red Sea and to the Indian Ocean," said General Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, according to IRNA.

Iran's Zarif questions US coalition for 'peaceful resolution'

Iran's foreign minister on Friday questioned US plans for a coalition for a "peaceful resolution" in the Middle East while listing repeated Iranian diplomatic initiatives.

"Coalition for Peaceful Resolution?," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a statement on Twitter, and listed eight diplomatic initiatives by Iran since 1985, including a peace plan for Yemen in 2015, and a regional non-aggression pact for the Gulf region proposed earlier this year.

In another tweet, Zarif accused the United States of valuing oil more than people in the Middle East, before leaving for New York for the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations next week, state media said.

"Arab blood vs. Arab oil / A primer on U.S. policy: 4 yrs of indiscriminate bombardment of Yemen, 100,000 dead Yemenis, 20M malnourished Yemenis, 2.3M cholera cases, carte (blanche) for culprits," Zarif tweeted.

"Retaliatory Yemeni strike on oil storage tanks = unacceptable "act of war," he added, in reference to September 14 attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure, which US Secretary of State Pompeo called an "act of war" against the world's largest oil exporter.

Zarif left for New York early on Friday, Iranian state TV said, after Iran's UN mission confirmed that the United States has issued visas allowing Rouhani and Zarif to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

Thursday, September 19

UN experts in Saudi to investigate oil attacks

The United Nations says its panel of experts on Yemen have arrived in Saudi Arabia to investigate an attack on the kingdom's oil facilities.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq acknowledged their arrival in a statement to journalists.

He said the inspectors had "started their mission, undertaken at the invitation of the Saudi authorities." He did not elaborate.

Iraq rejects joining US-led maritime coalition

Iraq's Foreign Ministry spokesman says it will not join a US-led coalition to protect waterways across the Mideast after an attack on Saudi oil installations.

Ahmad al Sahhaf says Gulf security is the responsibility of Gulf countries. In a statement on Thursday, he said Iraq rejects Israel's participation in the coalition.

Pompeo favours 'peaceful resolution' to crisis after Saudi attack

The US wants a peaceful solution to the crisis sparked by attacks on Saudi oil facilities, Secretary of State Pompeo said after Iran raised the prospect of "all-out war."

After meeting with allies in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Pompeo said there was an "enormous consensus in the region" that Iran carried out the attacks, despite its denials.

But he said the US intends to find a way out of the confrontation.

"We'd like a peaceful resolution. I think we've demonstrated that," he told reporters. "I hope the Islamic Republic of Iran sees it the same way."

Iran diplomat warns of 'all-out war' if hit for Saudi attack

Iran's top diplomat said that any attack on his country over a drone-and-missile strike on Saudi Arabia's oil industry will result in "all-out war," further pushing up tensions across the Persian Gulf.

Asked by CNN what would be the consequence of a US or Saudi strike, Zarif said, "All-out war."

It would cause "a lot of casualties," he stressed.

"I am making a very serious statement that we don't want to engage in a military confrontation," Zarif said. "But we won't blink to defend our territory."

He added that any sanctions placed by the US on Iran after pulling out of the nuclear deal would need to be lifted before any negotiations could be considered.

"They've done whatever they could and they haven't been able to bring us to our knees," Zarif said.

Iran asks Gulf states to 'come to their senses,' warns against attacks - Fars

Iran called on Gulf countries to "come to their senses," saying that any aggression against the country will be met with crushing response, the Iranian supreme leader's military advisor was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

"The enemy is fully aware of the preparedness of Iran's armed forces and knows that it will regret it if it commits any aggression," advisor Hossein Dehghan said.

'Iran is definitely behind them' 

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to German says his country has not ruled out any options in response to the recent attacks on its oil infrastructure.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan told Deutschlandfunk radio it's not yet clear where the attacks originated but "Iran is definitely behind them."

Asked whether military retaliation was being considered, he said "everything is on the table."

He says his country's ultimate response to the oil attacks would also depend on the international community.

He says the situation could deescalate if Iran can be convinced "something like this is not acceptable."

Claims are 'not very credible' - France's top diplomat

France's top diplomat is expressing doubt at claims by Yemen's rebel Houthis that they are responsible for recent drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told CNews TV that the claims are "not very credible."

He would not speculate on who was responsible, but reiterated that France sent its own experts to Saudi Arabia to investigate what happened.

Iran's Zarif slams 'agitation for war' over Saudi attacks

Foreign Minister Zarif accused Iran's forces of agitating for war, as Washington and its Gulf allies stepped up their rhetoric over twin attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

"'Act of war' or AGITATION for WAR?," Zarif tweeted, in apparent reference to remarks by US Secretary of State Pompeo accusing Iran of responsibility for Saturday's attacks, which sent world energy markets into a tailspin.

"This was an Iranian attack ... an act of war," Pompeo said on Wednesday, as he began a Gulf tour to discuss Washington's response.

Saudi oil attacks an Iranian 'act of war' - Pompeo

Pompeo said America backs Saudi Arabia's "right to defend itself" after the weekend attack targeted the heart of its oil industry.

The attacks have reignited fears over a wider conflagration in the region, as tensions remain high over Iran's collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Pompeo's made the comments on Twitter while he was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's defence minister. 

UAE joins US-led coalition to protect Mideast waterways

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it had joined a US-led coalition to protect waterways across the Mideast after the attack on Saudi oil installations.

The UAE is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and joined the kingdom in its war in Yemen against the Houthis.

The state-run WAM news agency quoted Salem al Zaabi of the Emirati Foreign Ministry as saying the UAE joined the coalition to "ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy."

Houthis threaten to attack targets in UAE

Yemen's Houthi group, which claims it was behind the weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities, said on Wednesday it has dozens of sites located in the United Arab Emirates listed as possible targets for attacks.

A military spokesman of the Iran-aligned organisation said the Houthis have new drones, powered by "normal and jet engines" that can reach targets deep in Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, September 18

UN sends experts to probe Saudi blasts

UN experts have left for Saudi Arabia to probe weekend blasts at oil installations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as he warned of “devastating” consequences if the crisis escalates.

The UN chief said that the experts were authorised to start a probe under the Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, which the US blames for the attacks.

While saying that he would wait to see the results of the investigation, he said he “strongly” condemned the attack.

“I think this attack is a dramatic escalation in the Gulf and I believe that we absolutely need to stop this kind of escalation,” he said.

“If there would be a major confrontation in the Gulf, it would have devastating consequences for the region and globally,” he said.

Saudi says Iran missile, drones used in attack

Saudi Arabia said that strikes on its oil infrastructure came from the "north" and were "unquestionably" sponsored by Iran, but that the kingdom was still investigating where exactly they were launched from.

"The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran," defence ministry spokesman Turki al Maliki told a press conference. "We are working to know the exact launch point."

However, he would not be drawn on whether Saudi Arabia believed Iran would ultimately be found to be the culprit, only saying they were confident they would find where the weapons were fired from.

Maliki displayed pieces of what he said were cruise missiles and drones used in the strike, recovered from the site of Saturday's attack in the country's east.

Iran says retaliation against US imminent if targeted

Iran has warned the US it would retaliate "immediately" if Tehran is targeted over a weekend attack on Saudi oil installations, its state-run news agency reported Wednesday, further raising Mideast tensions.

Iran's president and foreign minister also may not be able to attend next week's high-level meetings at the UN as the US has yet to issue them visas, IRNA reported.

The IRNA separately reported Wednesday that Iran's first delegation for the annual UN event had not left Iran because they had not acquired visas. Foreign Minister Zarif was to travel to New York on Friday, with Iran's Rouhani following Monday, according to the agency.

Trump orders Iran curbs as Saudi readies attack evidence

Trump on Wednesday said he ordered a major increase in sanctions on Iran in the latest US move to pressure Tehran, which US officials say probably carried out a crippling weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities.

Trump gave no explanation in a brief Twitter posting announcing the order, but the initiative follows repeated US assertions that the Islamic Republic was behind Saturday's attack on the kingdom, a close US ally.

"I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase sanctions on the country of Iran!," he wrote.

"They want to impose maximum ... pressure on Iran through slander," Iran's President Rouhani said.

"We don't want conflict in the region ... who started the conflict?" he added, blaming Washington and its Gulf allies for the war in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia joins US-led maritime coalition 

Saudi Arabia said it joined a US-led coalition to secure the Mideast's waterways amid threats from Iran after an attack targeting its crucial oil industry.

The kingdom's decision to enter the International Maritime Security Construct came ahead of a planned visit by Pompeo. 

Saudi officials separately planned to share information about the weapons used to attack a Saudi oil field and the world's largest crude oil processing plant Saturday.

Iran denies role in Saudi attacks in message to US

Iran has sent the United States a diplomatic note denying any role in attacks on Saudi oil installations and warning of a response to any action, state media said Wednesday.

The formal memo sent on Monday through the Swiss embassy, which represents US interests in Tehran, "emphasised that Iran has not played any role in this attack and denies and condemns" the US claims to the contrary, the official IRNA news agency said.

Saudi to unveil 'evidence' linking Iran to attacks

Saudi Arabia said it will unveil evidence on Wednesday linking regional foe Iran to attacks on key oil installations, as Pompeo heads to the kingdom to discuss possible retaliation.

Riyadh, which is bogged down in a five-year war against Tehran-aligned rebels in neighbouring Yemen, has said that the weapons used in the strikes were Iranian-made, but has so far not directly blamed its arch-rival.

However, the Saudi defence ministry said its spokesman would present evidence from the site of the weekend attacks that halved Saudi oil production, sending global energy markets into a tailspin.

"He will announce the final results of the investigation and present material evidence and Iranian weapons proving the Iranian regime's involvement in the terrorist attack," the ministry said.

Iran's Rouhani says Houthi attack a warning to Saudi Arabia

Iranian President Rouhani told his Cabinet that Saudi Arabia should see the Houthi-claimed attack on its oil facilities as a warning to end its war in Yemen.

Rouhani said Yemenis "did not hit hospitals, they did not hit schools or the Sanaa bazaar", mentioning the Saudi-led coalition's widely-criticised airstrikes.

President Rouhani also said US accusations that Iran was behind an attack on Saudi oil sites were aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran, state media reported.

The state-run media added Rouhani may cancel his appearance at the UN General Assembly meeting this month if the US fails to issue visas for him and the foreign minister in the next few hours.

France sending experts to investigate Saudi oil attack 

France will send experts to Saudi Arabia to help with investigations into an attack on Saudi oil installations, President Macron's office said on Wednesday.

Macron strongly condemned the attack, the Elysee Palace said, and assured Salman that France was committed to stability in the Middle East.

"In response to a Saudi request, President Macron confirmed to the crown prince that France will send experts to Saudi Arabia to take part in investigations aimed at revealing the origin and modalities of the attacks," the Elysee said.

US warns citizens over travelling to Saudi Arabia

The US State Department called on its citizens to "exercise increased caution" while travelling to Saudi Arabia, a travel advisory posted on its website said on Wednesday.

US mission personnel and their families are not permitted to use the airport in Abha without chief of mission approval, the note added. 

Abha airport has been frequently attacked by drones and missiles launched from Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthi group.

Tuesday, September 17

Pompeo heads to Saudi Arabia after US blames Iran

US Secretary of State Pompeo departed for Saudi Arabia to discuss possible retaliation after Washington said it had proof that attacks on Saudi oil installations originated in Iran.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Trump administration has concluded last weekend's attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and that evidence would be presented at the UN General Assembly next week.

Saudi minister says 50 percent of crude reduction restored

Saudi Arabia's energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman says 50 percent of the production cut by the attack on its oil processing plant has been restored.

The attack struck a Saudi oil field and the world's largest crude oil processing plant, knocking out 5.7 million barrels of crude oil production per day for the kingdom, or about 5 percent of the world's daily production.

The prince added that within this month, production capacity will be up to 11 million barrels per day by the end of September. It had been around 9.6 million barrels per day before the attack.

No talk with the US at any level – Iran's supreme leader

"There will be no talks with the US at any level," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in remarks apparently meant to end all speculation about a US-Iran meeting at the UN later this month.

Iranian state TV on Tuesday quoted Khamenei as saying this is the position of the entire leadership of the country and that "all officials in the Islamic Republic unanimously believe" this.

There has been speculation about a possible meeting between President Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Rouhani, during the upcoming UN General Assembly this month in New York.

US singles out Iran,readies response to Saudi oil attacks

The US readied its response on Monday to the "unprecedented" attack on Saudi oil facilities as Trump said Iran was likely to blame, fanning new fears of conflict in the Gulf region.

Trump said he was ready to help key ally Saudi Arabia after the weekend drone attacks, which triggered a record leap in global oil prices, but would await a "definitive" determination on who was responsible.

"We have a lot of options," the US leader told reporters, saying there was no rush to react and that talks with allies would come first.

"I'm not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to," he said.

Monday, September 16

Iran seizes new boat near vital oil shipping lane

Iran seized a boat suspected of being used to smuggle fuel and arrested its 11 crew members near a vital oil shipping lane, state TV reported on Monday. 

A naval patrol of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intercepted the vessel carrying 250,000 litres of fuel near the Strait of Hormuz, state TV's website said, citing a commander of the force.

"This boat was sailing from Bandar Lengeh towards United Arab Emirates waters before it was seized 32 kilometres east of Greater Tunb island," Brigadier General Ali Ozmayi was quoted as saying.

Kremlin warns against 'hasty conclusions' 

Russia urges countries in the Middle East and outside the region not to draw 'hasty conclusions' on who attacked Saudi oil facilities, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Peskov also said Russian President Vladimir Putin had not offered to help Saudi Arabia deal with consequences of the attacks, which did not affect preparations for Putin's upcoming visit to the country.

Britain says attack 'outrageous' but not clear who did it

Britain said an attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities was serious and outrageous but that the full facts were needed on who was responsible before making a response.

The attack "was a wanton violation of international law," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, adding that the UK stood firmly behind Saudi Arabia.

"In terms of who is responsible, the picture is not entirely clear," Raab said. "I want to have a very clear picture which we will be having shortly.

China can't apportion blame for attack without facts

China's Foreign Ministry said it was irresponsible to blame anyone for the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities without conclusive facts.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, added that China hoped all parties would exercise self-restraint.

Trump not to meet Iran officials with 'no conditions'

Trump on Sunday appeared to play down the chances that he might be willing to meet with Iranian officials, saying reports that he would do so without conditions were not accurate.

"The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, 'No Conditions.' That is an incorrect statement (as usual!)," Trump said on Twitter. 

In fact, as recently as on September 10, US Secretary of State Pompeo said, "He [Trump] is prepared to meet with no preconditions."

Energy prices spike after attacks

Global energy prices spiked after the Houthi-claimed drone attack caused the worst disruption to world supplies on record.

Benchmark Brent crude gained nearly 20 percent in the first moments of trading on Monday before settling down to over eight percent higher as trading continued. A barrel of Brent traded up $5.33 to $65.55.

That spike represented the biggest percentage value jump in Brent crude since the lead up to the 1991 Gulf War that saw a US-led coalition expel Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait.

Houthis warn of more attacks

Yemen's Houthi rebels warned of more attacks on Saudi oil facilities and urged foreign companies doing business in the kingdom to stay away from its energy sites. 

Yahia Sarie, a rebel spokesman, said facilities such as the Abqaiq oil processing plant and the oil field hit this weekend could again "be targeted at any time."

Sunday, September 15

US won't rule out Trump-Rouhani meeting

The White House did not rule out a potential meeting between Trump and Rouhani, even after Washington accused Iran of being behind drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities. 

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the attacks on Saturday "did not help" prospects for a meeting between the two leaders during the United Nations General Assembly this month but she left open the possibility it could happen.

"I'll allow the president (Trump) to announce a meeting or a non-meeting," Conway told the "Fox News Sunday" television show.

Iran dismisses US allegations as 'meaningless'

Iran's foreign ministry dismissed as "meaningless" US accusations it was behind drone attacks on Saudi oil installations, suggesting they were a pretext to retaliate against the Islamic republic.

"Such fruitless and blind accusations and remarks are incomprehensible and meaningless," ministry spokesman Mousavi was quoted as saying in a statement. 

The allegations over Saturday's strikes were meant to justify "future actions" against Iran, he added.

US blames Iran for Saudi attacks, 'pretend' diplomacy

Pompeo accused Iran of leading attacks on Saudi oil plants that have cut the kingdom's output roughly in half, as he ruled out Yemeni involvement and denounced Tehran for engaging in false diplomacy.

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks on two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry, including the world's biggest petroleum processing facility.

Meanwhile, the US State Department declined to provide any evidence to bolster Pompeo's claim. Pompeo also said on Twitter that there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.

Saturday, September 14

Iran signs $440M deal with local firm to develop Gulf gas field

Iran signed a $440 million contract with local company Petropars to develop Belal gas field in the Gulf, Iranian state television reported, saying the country's vital energy sector was active despite US sanctions.

"This contract and other upcoming contracts show that we are working under the sanctions. The sanctions have not stopped us and we are active," Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in remarks carried by state TV.

Under the deal signed with a subsidiary of the state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Petropars is to produce 500 million cubic feet per day of gas, state TV said.

Belal, a field shared with Qatar, straddles the maritime boundary between Iran and Qatar in the Gulf.

Friday, September 13

European powers call on Iran to cooperate
In a joint statement, France, Britain, Germany and the EU's foreign policy chief Mogherini expressed deep concern at Tehran's violations of the 2015 deal and urged it to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

"The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in its report of September 8 that advanced centrifuges had been installed or were being installed in Natanz. We are deeply concerned by these activities," the European powers said in their first joint statement since an IAEA briefing earlier this week.

"We continue to support the JCPoA (nuclear accord) and urge Iran to reverse its activities that violate its JCPoA commitments, and to refrain from all further action."

Iran accuses US and Israel of pressuring IAEA

Tehran accused the US and Israel of applying "undue pressure" on the IAEA to vet its nuclear programme and warned it could be "counterproductive" to its cooperation with the agency.

Tehran's ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharib Abadi, said statements by Israel and the US could jeopardise Iran's "constructive, timely and proactive cooperation" with the watchdog.

Gibraltar acted in good faith over Adrian Darya 1 release

Gibraltar acted in good faith when it released the Adrian Darya 1 tanker and Iran broke assurances it had given not to sell the crude oil to Syria, the British territory's maritime minister said on Friday.

British commandos on July 4 seized the supertanker, formerly named the Grace 1, on suspicion that it was en route to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Gibraltar released it on August 15 after getting written Iranian assurances that it would not discharge its cargo of around 2 million barrels of oil in Syria.

Trump says Iranian leadership 'wants to meet'

Trump said he believes that Iran's leadership wants to talk, adding to expectations that he is trying to arrange a summit with his Iranian counterpart at the upcoming UN assembly.

"I can tell you that Iran wants to meet," he told reporters at the White House.

Trump has repeatedly indicated he is ready to meet with President Rouhani, who is expected to attend the UN General Assembly in New York this month. However, the Iranians have so far not given a positive response.

US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said on Thursday Trump has no meeting planned with Rouhani while he's in New York for the UNGA later this month.

Thursday, September 12

Evidence Adrian Darya 1 oil transferred to Syria - US

The US has evidence that the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 has transferred its crude oil to the Syrian government, breaking assurances it gave not to sell crude to the country, the US State Department said.

British commandos on July 4 seized the vessel, formerly named the Grace 1, on suspicion that it was en route to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Gibraltar released it on August 15 after getting written Iranian assurances that it would not discharge its 2.1 million barrels of oil in Syria.

Britain's foreign ministry on Tuesday said the tanker had sold its crude oil to the government of Syrian leader Bashar al Assad, breaking those assurances, and that the oil had been transferred to Syria.

Wednesday, September 11

Rouhani signals approval of Bolton firing

Iran's president urged the US on Wednesday to "put warmongers aside" as tensions roil the Persian Gulf amid an escalating crisis between Washington and Tehran in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Rouhani's remarks signalled approval of Trump's abrupt dismissal of John Bolton as national security adviser, a man routinely pilloried by Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of a "B Team" that targeted Iran.

Bolton had for years been critical of Tehran and once promised before an Iranian exile group that they'd be celebrating the overthrow of Iran's government this year.

Iran again rebuffs US talk of Trump-Rouhani meeting

Iran said the firing of Bolton as US national security adviser will not push Tehran to reconsider talks with the US.

"The departure of US National Security Adviser John Bolton from Trump's administration will not push Iran to reconsider talking with the US," state news agency IRNA quoted Tehran's United Nations envoy Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi as saying.

2 British-Australians, 1 Australian citizen held in Iran

Two women who are dual British-Australian citizens and an Australian man have been detained in Iran, one of them sentenced to 10 years in prison, Australia's government and media said.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to the families of all three. 

The three are held in Tehran's Evin prison, where British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, has been detained since 2016 on spying charges, the newspaper reported.

Tuesday, September 10

Iran reneged on promise by transferring oil to Syria – UK

Britain summoned the Iranian ambassador to condemn what it said was a clear breach of the assurances it was given over the oil cargo of the tanker Adrian Darya 1, which had previously been detained for breaching EU sanctions.

"Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1," Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in a statement, accusing Iran of reneging on a promise not to transfer oil from the tanker to Syria.

"This sale of oil to brutal (Syrian) regime is part of a pattern of behaviour by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security."

Britain said it would raise the issue at the UN later this month. 

Iran's failure to address IAEA concerns 'unacceptable' – US

Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran of "possible undeclared nuclear activities," as the UN's nuclear watchdog presses Tehran for answers on its atomic safeguards.

"The Iranian regime's lack of full cooperation with @iaeaorg raises questions about possible undeclared nuclear material or activities," Pompeo tweeted.

"The world won't fall for it. We will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon."

The US, however, repeated it remained open to talks with Tehran on a "comprehensive deal."

Monday, September 9

Netanyahu claims Iran has a secret nuclear weapon site 

Israel's prime minister has unveiled what he says is a previously undisclosed Iranian nuclear weapons site.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu said the facility was discovered from records that Israel said it had seized from an Iranian nuclear warehouse early last year.

He showed a satellite photo of the facility in the southern Fars province's Abadeh area in June, followed by a second photo of what he said was the site being destroyed in July after the Iranians realised they'd been discovered.

"Today we reveal that yet another secret nuclear site was exposed in the archives that we brought from Tehran," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the international nuclear deal with Iran, says Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon — a charge Iran denies.

"Israel knows what you're doing, Israel knows when you're doing it, and Israel knows where you're doing it," Netanyahu said.

'Respond promptly' to questions – IAEA to Tehran

The acting head of the UN nuclear watchdog on Monday called on Iran to "respond promptly" to the agency's questions regarding Tehran's nuclear programme.

Cornel Feruta was addressing the quarterly board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a day after meeting high-level Iranian officials in Tehran.

He said that in his meetings he "stressed the need for Iran to respond promptly to Agency questions related to the completeness of Iran's safeguards declarations," adding: "Time is of the essence."

Earlier on Monday, IAEA confirmed that Iran was installing advanced centrifuges, a move that puts further pressure on the troubled 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Sunday, September 8

Traces of uranium found at secret warehouse

Samples taken by the UN nuclear watchdog at what Israel's prime minister called a "secret atomic warehouse" in Tehran showed traces of uranium that Iran has yet to explain, two diplomats who follow the agency's inspections work closely say.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is investigating the particles' origin and has asked Iran to explain the traces. But Tehran has not done so, according to the diplomats, stoking tensions between Washington and Tehran. 

In a speech a year ago Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who vehemently opposed the deal, called on the IAEA to visit the site immediately, saying it had housed 15 kg (33 lb) of unspecified radioactive material that had since been removed.

Reuters first reported in April that the IAEA, which is policing the nuclear deal, had inspected the site - a step it had said it takes "only when necessary" - and environmental samples taken there were sent off for analysis.

Israeli and US media have since reported that the samples turned up traces of radioactive material or matter - the same vague language used by Netanyahu.

Those traces were, however, of uranium, the diplomats said - the same element Iran is enriching and one of only two fissile elements with which one can make the core of a nuclear bomb.
One diplomat said the uranium was not highly enriched, meaning it was not purified to a level anywhere close to that needed for weapons.

"There are lots of possible explanations," that diplomat said. But since Iran has not yet given any to the IAEA it is hard to verify the particles' origin, and it is also not clear whether the traces are remnants of material or activities that predate the landmark 2015 deal or more recent, diplomats say.

The IAEA did not respond to a request for comment.
Iranian officials were not available to comment. 

US will continue to impose sanctions

The United States will continue to impose sanctions on whoever purchases Iran's oil or conducts business with Iran's Revolutionary Guards and no oil waivers will be re-issued, a US official told Reuters on Sunday.

"We will continue to put pressure on Iran and as President (Trump) said there will be no waivers of any kind for Iran's oil," said Sigal Mandelker, US Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Mandelker added that Iranian oil sales have taken a "serious nose dive" because of US pressure.

Detained British tanker may be released 'soon'

Iran may soon release a detained British tanker after the completion of legal steps, state television reported on Sunday.

"I hope the procedures will be completed soon and this tanker will be released," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mousavi told the station.

The state television also reported that Mousavi said an Iranian tanker "has gone to its destination" and "the oil has been sold. 

"The Adrian Darya oil tanker finally docked on the Mediterranean coast ..and unloaded its cargo," IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mousavi, as saying.

Iran says Europe failing to save nuclear deal

The head of Iran's nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the European Union has so far failed to carry out its commitments under the 2015 deal, which promised relief from trade sanctions in return for curbing the country's nuclear program.

Salehi said the EU "was supposed to fill the vacuum" in enforcing the deal, but "unfortunately they could not." He said compliance with the deal is not a "one-way road.

"Unfortunately the European parties have failed to fulfil their commitments...The deal is not a one-way street and Iran will act accordingly as we have done so far by gradually downgrading our commitments," said Salehi said, speaking after meeting the acting head of the US nuclear watchdog (IAEA), Cornel Feruta.

"Iran will continue to reduce its nuclear commitments as long as the other parties fail to carry out their commitments." 

Feruta, Zarif meet 

Feruta, also met Zarif on Sunday who said Iran's reduction of commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal were allowed under the accord, according to reports by the semi-official Fars news agency.

Zarif said that Iran was acting under paragraph 36 of the accord, Fars reported. Iranian officials say the paragraph allows one party to the deal to cut its commitments if others do not live up to theirs.

Feruta reiterated that IAEA would carry out its verification activities in a "professional and impartial" manner, Fars added.

The IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors will discuss Iran at a quarterly meeting that begins on Monday.

Saturday, September 7

Iran fires up advanced centrifuges in latest nuclear step

Iran has started up advanced centrifuges to boost its stockpile of enriched uranium but will allow the UN atomic agency to continue monitoring its nuclear programme,  spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation Behrouz Kamalvandi said.

He said the agency had activated 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges as a third step in the Islamic republic's reduction of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.

"The centrifuge machines, as they are engaged in research and development, will help with increasing the stockpile," he said.

"The capacity of these machines is many times more than the previous machines. This started as of yesterday (Friday)," he told reporters.

Iran seizes ship for alleged fuel-smuggling

Iran's coast guard has seized a vessel for allegedly smuggling fuel in the Gulf and detained its 12 crew members from the Philippines, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

The vessel was carrying nearly 284,000 litres of diesel, the news agency said on Saturday.

Satellite images show Iran oil tanker off Syria

Earlier, the once-detained Iranian oil tanker pursued by the US appeared to be off the coast of Syria, where Tehran reportedly promised the vessel would not go when authorities in Gibraltar agreed to release it several weeks ago, according to satellite images obtained Saturday by The Associated Press.

The images obtained early Saturday from Maxar Technologies appeared to show the vessel off Syria's coast, some 3.7 kilometres off shore under intermittent cloud cover.

Iranian and Syrian officials have not acknowledged the vessel's presence there. 

Friday, September 6

Iran to host IAEA officials in Tehran

The acting chief of the UN nuclear watchdog policing Iran's nuclear deal with major powers, Cornel Feruta, will meet senior Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday.

"The visit is part of ongoing interactions between the IAEA and Iran," the spokesman said.

The trip comes before a quarterly meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors next week and after an IAEA report suggested Iran's cooperation with the agency was less than ideal, saying: "Ongoing interactions between the Agency and Iran ... require full and timely cooperation by Iran. The Agency continues to pursue this objective with Iran." 

Iran defends nuclear measures

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on Friday defended his country's plan to take further steps away from the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

He said this was justified because it was in response to US sanctions.

"The measures that we have taken have been prescribed in the JCPOA (nuclear accord), in paragraph 36, as remedies for the US withdrawal, its reimposition of illegal restrictions on Iran, which we call economic terrorism," he said.  

Iran says next step belongs to Europe

Iran has yet to say officially what exact steps it will take, as a deadline it gave Europeans to salvage the deal is to expire on Friday. 

However, centrifuges that speed up uranium enrichment would further shorten the time Tehran would need to to build a nuclear weapon were it to choose to do so.

Thursday, September 5

Iran to provide details of latest nuclear move Saturday

Iran will announce details on Saturday of its latest scaling back of its commitments under the nuclear deal in response to the sweeping US sanctions, the ISNA news agency reported.

Atomic energy organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi will hold a news conference to set out the details of Iran's third cut in its nuclear commitments since May, ISNA said on Thursday.

Rouhani said Wednesday that the new steps included abandoning all limits set by the 2015 deal to Iran's nuclear research and development.

Also on Thursday, EU urged Iran to "reverse" scaleback from nuclear deal.

"These activities we consider are inconsistent with the JCPOA (the nuclear accord). And in this context we urge Iran to reverse these steps and refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal," European Commission spokesman Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela told a media briefing in Brussels.

Iran's Zarif tweets: US treasury is nothing more than a "jail warden"

The US treasury is nothing more than a "jail warden", Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif tweeted on Thursday, a day after Washington imposed fresh sanctions designed to choke off the smuggling of Iranian oil.

"OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control of US Treasury) is nothing more than a JAIL WARDEN: Ask for reprieve (waiver), get thrown in solitary for the audacity. Ask again and you might end up in the gallows," Zarif wrote on his Twitter account.

US adds new sanctions and rewards to further pressure Iran

The Trump administration stepped up pressure on Iran on Wednesday, imposing sanctions on an oil shipping network with ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard and offering a reward of up to $15 million for anyone with information that could disrupt its faltering economy even further.

In announcing these new steps, US officials appeared to dampen expectations for European-led efforts to salvage the remainder of the nuclear deal.

"There will be more sanctions coming," Brian Hook, the US special envoy for Iran, told reporters at the State Department. "We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure."

Wednesday, September 4

Rouhani says Iran to develop nuclear centrifuges

Iran will from Friday begin developing centrifuges to speed up the enrichment of uranium, as the next step in scaling back its nuclear commitments, Rouhani said on Wednesday.

He ordered all limits on nuclear research and development to be lifted, the country's third step in scaling down its commitments to a 2015 deal with world powers.

"I, as of now, announce the third step," he said on state television. 

"The atomic energy organisation (of Iran) is ordered to immediately start whatever is needed in the field of research and development, and abandon all the commitments that were in place regarding research and development."

Iran in July abandoned two other nuclear commitments: to keep its stockpile of enriched uranium below 300-kilogrammes, and a 3.67-percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.

US slaps sanctions on Iran shipping network

The United States imposed sanctions on a shipping network it said was run by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, saying it sold millions of barrels of oil to benefit Syrian regime leader Assad.

The sanctions on 16 entities, 10 people and 11 vessels were announced just as Iran was threatening to cut further its commitments under a nuclear deal unless the United States eases its pressure.

Tuesday, September 3

Iran set to make new cut in nuclear commitments

Rouhani reiterated a threat that Tehran would take additional steps away from the 2015 nuclear accord on Friday and accelerate nuclear activities if Europe fails to provide a solution, calling it Iran's third, "most important step" away from the deal.

Iran and three European countries – Britain, France and Germany – have been engaged in talks to save a 2015 nuclear deal that has been unravelling since the US withdrew from it in May last year.

"I don't think that... we will reach a deal so we'll take the third step and we will announce the details today or tomorrow," Rouhani told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

"If we had 20 issues of disagreement with the Europeans in the past, today there are three issues," he said.

"Most of them have been resolved but we haven't reached a final agreement."

European credit line to Iran

The idea of a phased credit line to pre-purchase Iranian oil has been floated amid the diplomatic efforts, something Araghchi reiterated.

Europe, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said, needs to compensate Iran in the "amount of $15 billion over a 4-month span" and "after that, Iran is ready for talks."

Araghchi was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying "it is unlikely European countries can take an effective step" before the deadline.

Iran frees British sailors 

Iran will free seven crew members of the detained British tanker Stena Impero, Iranian state television reported on Wednesday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mousavi told the TV that the seven were freed on humanitarian grounds and could leave Iran soon.

The Stena Impero was detained by Tehran on July 19, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. The Iranian ship was released in August.

Monday, September 2

Iran’s Zarif warns EU

Iran said it would further scale back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal if EU signatories failed to shield Tehran’s economy from US sanctions reimposed by Trump after exiting the deal last year.

"It is meaningless to continue unilateral commitments to the deal if we don’t enjoy its benefits as promised by the deal’s European parties," Foreign Minister Zarif said in a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart in Moscow.

"We have agreed to make further efforts and take more measures to protect economic projects with Iran and to gain independence from payments in dollars," Sergey Lavrov said.

Saturday, August 31

US sanctions Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 

US sanctioned an Iranian oil tanker previously held for weeks by Gibraltar and released despite Washington's efforts to keep it detained.

The US Department of Treasury said the vessel, previously known as Grace 1, is "blocked property" under an anti-terrorist order, and "anyone providing support to the Adrian Darya 1 risks being sanctioned."

Two weeks ago, US threatened a visa ban on the crew of the tanker.

Washington says the vessel is carrying crude ultimately benefiting Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which it has blacklisted as a terrorist organisation.

Friday, August 30

IAEA says Iran violating nuclear deal

The UN atomic watchdog says Iran is still in violation of limitations set by the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

In a confidential quarterly report distributed to member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday that Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium still exceeds the amount allowed by the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

It said Iran continues to enrich uranium to 4.5 percent, above the 3.67 percent allowed.

The violations were announced by Iran, and confirmed by the IAEA last month, and are meant to put pressure on the signatories to the JCPOA to provide new economic incentives to help offset new tough American sanctions.

The IAEA says Iran has continued to permit its inspectors to monitor its nuclear facilities.

Iranian tanker destination remains obscure

An Iranian oil tanker pursued by the US on Friday again listed its destination as Turkey but the Turkish foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it is certain the tanker is not coming to a Turkish port.

The flurry of contradictory statements further muddies the waters for the Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, and obscures where its 2.1 million barrels of oil will ultimately go.

Iran tanker headed to Lebanon: Turkey

Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1, released after being detained for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, is now headed for Lebanon, Turkey's Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said on Friday. 

Lebanon said it had not been informed of the tanker's direction.

"This tanker is not heading actually to Iskenderun [in Turkey], this tanker is heading to Lebanon," Cavusoglu said during a visit to Oslo, referring to the vessel.

The minister did not specify whether Lebanon was the tanker's final destination.

"We still buy gas from Iran, but we don't buy oil," Cavusoglu stressed, adding that Turkey was monitoring the vessel's progress "very closely."

Lebanon has not been informed whether an Iranian oil tanker, at the centre of a US-Iran confrontation, was heading to one of its ports, the finance minister said.

"We have not been informed of the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya heading [here]," Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.

Thursday, August 29

EU backs US-Iran talks but says nuclear deal must stay

"We are always in favour of talks, the more people talk, the more people understand each other better, on the basis of clarity and on the basis of respect," EU diplomatic chief Mogherini said as she arrived for the Helsinki meeting.

But she added that "first and foremost what is existing needs to be preserved" – referring to UN Security Council resolutions and specifically the 2015 deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.

The idea of direct talks between Washington and Tehran as a way out of the crisis grew this week after Trump mooted the idea and the new US defence secretary urged Iran's leaders to engage.

Iran says no talks with US unless it lifts sanctions

Zarif says Iran's supreme leader will not meet Trump unless Washington halts its "economic terrorism" that has hurt ordinary Iranians.

Zarif says the removal of US sanctions could also help salvage the Iranian nuclear deal, which the US unilaterally withdrew from last year.

He says Tehran has the right to reduce its compliance under the nuclear pact after the US left but it can easily "revert back to full implementation" if the US fulfils its commitment and returns to the table.

He told a forum in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday that "you do not negotiate with terrorists.

If they want to negotiate, they have to abandon terrorism," in reference to the rollback of sanctions.

Tuesday, August 27

Japan minister says he hopes to ease Mideast tension

Japan will try to help ease tension in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on Tuesday at a meeting with Zarif.

Zarif said he looked forward to discussions with Kono as both countries had special interests in the security of the energy market and stability in the Gulf.

"We are worried about tension in the Middle East and we hope to make some diplomatic effort to ease the tension," Kono told reporters as he stood with Zarif.

"We wanted to have a direct and frank conversation with you today," he said to Zarif.

Japan has historically had friendly ties with Iran and is also a close US ally.

Iran dampens down prospect of Trump-Rouhani meeting

Rouhani told the US to "take the first step" by lifting all sanctions against Iran, dampening down the likelihood of meeting US counterpart Trump. 

Zarif said the prospects for such a meeting were "unimaginable" even if the US rejoins a landmark nuclear deal with Iran.

Trump had said less than 24 hours earlier he was ready to meet with Rouhani within weeks, in a potential breakthrough reached during a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.

Monday, August 26

Iran says it has sold oil from tanker released by Gibraltar

An Iranian government spokesman says the oil aboard an Iranian tanker pursued by the US has been sold to an unnamed buyer.

The Adrian Darya, previously known as the Grace 1, carries 2.1 million barrels of crude, worth some $130 million.

Ali Rabiei made the announcement at a news conference on Monday in Tehran. He says the buyer of the oil will decide the ship's ultimate destination.

The tanker was held for weeks off Gibraltar after being seized by authorities there on suspicion of violating EU sanctions on Syria.

The US has a warrant in federal court to seize the ship and has been warning nations not to accept it.

The ship is still in the Mediterranean Sea heading east.

Iranian tanker no longer has Turkey destination - shipping data

Adrian Darya 1, the Iranian tanker at the centre of a confrontation between Washington and Tehran, is no longer recorded as heading for Turkey, Refinitiv Eikon shipping data showed on Monday, having switched to a Turkish destination at the weekend.

The vessel, fully laden with oil, had previously been heading to the port of Kalamata in southern Greece but Greece had said it would not offer any facilities to the tanker.

Shipping data on Saturday had then indicated the vessel was to dock at the southern Turkish port of Mersin on August 31.

On Monday, Refinitiv Eikon data did not specify any destination for the Adrian Darya.

Saturday, August 24

Iranian oil tanker pursued by US says it's going to Turkey

The Iranian-flagged oil tanker pursued by the US amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington changed its listed destination to a port in Turkey after Greece said it wouldn't risk its relations with America by aiding it.

The crew of the Adrian Darya 1 updated its listed destination in its Automatic Identification System to Mersin, a port city in Turkey's south and home to an oil terminal.

Mersin is some 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of a refinery in Baniyas, Syria, where authorities alleged the Adrian Darya had been heading before being seized off Gibraltar in early July.

Friday, August 23

Nuclear talks with Macron were 'productive' - Zarif

Iran's foreign minister said talks he held on Friday with French President Macron about a landmark 2015 nuclear deal were "productive", according to the ILNA news agency.

"France had presented some suggestions and we presented some suggestions about how to carry out [the nuclear deal] and the steps that both sides need to take," Zarif, said.

"The talks were good and productive, of course it depends on how the European Union can carry out the commitments within [the nuclear deal] and also the commitments that they made after [the nuclear deal] and America's exit."

It is not possible to renegotiate the nuclear deal, Zarif said, according to ILNA. 

Thursday, August 22

Will aggressively enforce sanctions over tanker - US  

The US will aggressively enforce its sanctions to prevent the private sector from assisting an Iranian oil tanker that is travelling through the Mediterranean and that Washington wants to be seized, a State Department official said on Thursday.

"The shipping sector is on notice that we will aggressively enforce US sanctions," the official said, days after warning countries not to allow the tanker to dock.

Ship tracking data has shown the ship, Adrian Darya 1 last heading toward Greece, although Greece's prime minister said it was not heading to his country.

"All parties in the shipping sector should conduct appropriate due diligence to ensure that they are not doing business with nor facilitating business for, directly or indirectly, sanctioned parties or with sanctioned cargo," the official warned.

Prepared to work on French nuclear deal proposals - Zarif

Iran is prepared to work on French proposals to salvage the international nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers in 2015, Zarif said.

"There are proposals on the table, both from the French and the Iranian side, and we are going to work on those proposals tomorrow," he said at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

Macron offered on Wednesday to either soften sanctions on Iran or provide "a compensation mechanism to enable the Iranian people to live better" in return for full compliance with the pact, which the US quit last year.

Zarif added: "I'm looking forward to having a serious conversation with President Macron about possibilities to move forward."

He had said on Monday he would meet Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris on Friday.

Zarif also addressed the US' efforts to create a security operation, which so far Britain, Australia and Bahrain have joined, to guard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for the global oil industry.

"It's clear that the US' intention..(of having a) naval presence in the Persian Gulf is to counter Iran. Don't expect us to remain quiet when somebody comes to our waters and threatens us," Zarif said.

'Talks are useless' in dealing with US - Iran's president 

Iran's president struck a muscular tone on dealings with the US, saying "talks are useless" as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers crumbles further.

Rouhani made the comment in a speech in Tehran during the unveiling of the Bavar-373, a long-range surface-to-air missile system that he described as an improvement to the Russian S-300.

"Now that our enemies do not accept logic, we cannot respond with logic," Rouhani said in the televised speech.

He added: "When the enemy launches a missile against us, we cannot give a speech and say: 'Mr Rocket, please do not hit our country and our innocent people. Rocket-launching sir, if you can please hit a button and self-destroy the missile in the air.'"

On Wednesday, Iran's state TV reported that the Bavar-373 is able to recognise up to 100 targets at the same time and confront them with six different weapons.

Since 1992, Iran has developed a homegrown defence industry that has produced light and heavy weapons ranging from mortars and torpedoes to tanks and submarines.

The US re-imposed sanctions on Iran after the Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal over concerns about Iran's missile program and regional influence.

Trump argued that the accord did not limit Iran's ballistic missile programme.

Iran displays domestically built mobile missile defence system

Iran displayed what it described as a domestically-built long-range, surface-to-air missile air defence system.

Iran shot down a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June. It says the drone was over its territory, but the US says it was in international airspace.

State television showed an unveiling ceremony for the mobile Bavar-373 system, which Iranian media have described as a competitor to the Russian S-300 missile system.

"With this long-range air defence system, we can detect ... targets or planes at more than 300 km (190 miles), lock it at about 250 km, and destroy it at 200 km," Defence Minister Hatami told state television.

The system's unveiling came on Iran's National Defence Industry Day. 

Wednesday, August 21

Greece closes ports to Iranian oil tanker

Greece said on Wednesday it won't endanger its relations with the US by aiding an Iranian supertanker sought by the US but released by Gibraltar that's currently in the Mediterranean Sea, believed heading for a Greek port.

Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said Athens is under pressure from US authorities, which claim the Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1 is tied to a sanctioned organisation.

He told private Antenna TV that the 330-metre tanker is too big anyway to enter any Greek port and can't legally unload its $130 million worth of light crude at EU refineries.

The vessel can still enter Greek waters or anchor offshore, in which case Athens will "see" what it will do, Varvitsiotis added.

Tuesday, August 20

Pompeo warns action

The United States will take every action it can to prevent an Iranian tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of US sanctions, Pompeo warned. 

"We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States," Pompeo told reporters. 

"If that ship again heads to Syria we will take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that." 

The Adrian Darya - formerly the Grace 1 - left Gibraltar on August 18 and ship-tracking data showed the vessel was heading toward the Greek port of Kalamta.

'No request' from Iran tanker to dock in Greece – minister

Athens has received no request from the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya to dock in Greece, Merchant Marine Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis said Tuesday after a maritime tracker gave the ship's "reported destination" as the Greek port of Kalamata.

"There is officially no request concerning the arrival of the Iranian tanker in a Greek port," Plakiotakis told Greek media.

"We are following its progress and are working with the Greek foreign minister," he said.

The website Marine Traffic placed the supertanker carrying 2.1 million barrels of oil some 100 kilometres northwest of the Algerian port of Oran.

Monday, August 19

Iran warns US against seizing tanker

Iran said it warned Washington through the Swiss embassy in Tehran, which represents prior US interests, against trying to seize the tanker again.

"Iran has given necessary warnings to American officials through its official channels... not to make such a mistake because it would have grave consequences," foreign ministry spokesman Mousavi said.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference, he dismissed the notion that there was a link between the seizure of the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar and the British-flagged tanker in the Gulf.

"There is no connection whatsoever between these two vessels," said Mousavi.  

"The court is looking into it. We hope the (investigation) is completed as soon as possible and the verdict is issued."

Zarif rules out talks with US over a new nuclear deal

Zarif said Iran is not interested in talks with Washington, but any mediation should focus on bringing the United States back to the 2015 nuclear deal which it left last year.

Zarif was speaking in Finland after meeting Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto, who said Europe was doing its best to salvage the deal.

Iranian tanker sought by US heading toward Greece

An Iranian supertanker hauling $130 million worth of light crude oil that the US suspected to be tied to a sanctioned organisation lifted its anchor and begun moving away from Gibraltar, marine traffic monitoring data showed. 

The Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1, previously named Grace 1, set course for Kalamata, Greece, with an estimated arrival on August 25, according to ship-tracking service MarineTraffic. It wasn't immediately clear why the tanker would be heading there or whether the destination could change.

The vessel had been detained for a month in the British overseas territory for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria.

Sunday, August 18

Adrian Darya-1 expected to leave Gibraltar Sunday night - Iran

Iran's ambassador to Britain said the Iranian tanker caught in a stand-off between Tehran and the West is expected to leave the British territory of Gibraltar on Sunday night.

"With the arrival of two specialised engineering teams to Gibraltar ... the vessel is expected to leave tonight," Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter.

British Royal Marines seized the vessel in Gibraltar in July on suspicion that it was carrying oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran, in violation of European Union sanctions.

Gibraltar rejects US pressure to hold Iranian oil tanker

Authorities in Gibraltar say they are rejecting the United States' renewed request that the British overseas territory not release an Iranian supertanker.

The vessel has been detained for over a month in Gibraltar for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria.

In a statement Sunday, Gibraltar's government said the ship would be free to go, as US sanctions on Iran had no equivalent in the United Kingdom or the rest of the EU.

The US had unsealed a warrant on Friday to seize the vessel, a day after Gibraltar lifted the ship's detention.

The vessel remains at anchor off Gibraltar, laden with 2.1 million barrels of Iranian light crude oil.

A new crew is expected to arrive and sail the tanker to an undisclosed destination as early as Sunday.

Saturday, August 17

Iranian tanker to leave Gibraltar soon 

The United States faced an against-the-clock legal battle to re-seize an Iranian supertanker caught in a diplomatic standoff before the vessel's shipping agent said Saturday he would go ahead with the ship's planned departure from Gibraltar on Sunday or Monday.

The head of the company sorting paperwork and procuring for the Grace 1 oil tanker in the British overseas territory said the vessel could be sailing away in the next "24 to 48 hours," once new crews dispatched to the territory take over command of the ship.

"The vessel is ongoing some logistical changes and requirements that have delayed the departure," Astralship managing director Richard De la Rosa told The Associated Press.

He said the new crews were Indian and Ukrainian nationals hired by the Indian managers of the ship and that his company had not been informed about the supertanker's next destination.

Iran tanker shifts position but still at anchor off Gibraltar

An Iranian tanker caught in the standoff between Tehran and the West shifted position on Saturday, but its anchor was still down off Gibraltar and it was unclear if it was ready to set sail soon.

Gibraltar authorities could not be reached for comment.

The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marines at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran.

Gibraltar lifted the detention order on Thursday but the vessel’s fate was further complicated by the US, which made a last-ditch legal appeal to hold it.

Friday, August 16

US announces warrant to seize Iranian supertanker Grace 1

The US Justice Department unveiled a warrant on Friday for the seizure of the Iranian oil supertanker Grace 1, one day after a Gibraltar judge allowed the release of the detained vessel.

The warrant says the vessel, all the oil aboard and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture based on violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and bank fraud, money laundering, and terrorism forfeiture statutes.

Gibraltar's chief minister confirms Grace 1 release

An Iranian tanker whose detention exacerbated friction between Tehran and the West could sail free from British territory Gibraltar on Friday, though a US request to halt its passage could drag the saga back into court.

The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marine commandos in darkness at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the decision to lift the detention order came after written assurances from Tehran that the ship would not discharge its oil in Syria.

Picardo said the US could still begin a new legal procedure for seizing the Grace 1, but that provisions under the European Union's sanctions regulations were ending on Thursday.

Iran denied commitments in exchange for tanker release saying the vessel was not destined for Syria in the first place.

US to revoke visas held by crew of Iranian ship

US State Department said it will revoke US visas for crew members on the Iranian oil tanker. 

The department stated that it intends to fully enforce all US sanctions related to Iranian oil exports despite the decision by Gibraltar to allow the ship to leave.

Thursday, August 15

Gibraltar frees Iranian vessel

Gibraltar’s Supreme Court ruled to release an Iranian supertanker seized last month on suspicion of shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions, despite a last-minute US request to detain the vessel. 

Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said that since Iran had guaranteed in writing that the Grace 1 "was never destined to an EU sanctioned entity... there are no longer reasonable grounds to suspect that the detention of the Vessel is required."

He added that the court had not received a written detention request from the United States.

US asks Gibraltar to keep Iranian tanker in detention

The US requested that Gibraltar hold in detention an Iranian supertanker at the centre of a stand-off between Tehran and London that sparked tensions in the oil-rich Gulf.

The British overseas territory's Supreme Court was set to release the Grace 1, when the US Department of Justice applied for the vessel to be seized.

The move was announced by attorney Joseph Triay and delayed the court decision on the vessel's fate. 

Triay did not detail the basis for the US request other than as "mutual legal assistance".

Gibraltar's Supreme Court Chief Justice Anthony Dudley made clear that were it not for the US move, "the ship would have sailed".

Wednesday, August 14

Gibraltar to reportedly release Iran tanker on Thursday

The British territory of Gibraltar will on Thursday release an Iranian oil tanker seized by Royal Marines in the Mediterranean in July, The Sun newspaper reported, citing sources close to Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

Picardo would not apply to renew an order to detain Grace 1, the report said, adding that he is now satisfied that the oil tanker is no longer heading to Syria.

Britain had said the vessel was violating European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a charge Iran denies.

"There is no reason to keep Grace 1 in Gibraltar a moment longer if we no longer believe it is in breach of sanctions against the Syrian regime," the newspaper quoted a source close to Picardo as saying. 

Tuesday, August 13

Iran, Gibraltar bicker over Grace 1

A Gibraltarian government source denied an Iranian news agency report which said the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 would be leaving the British overseas territory on Tuesday.

British Royal Marines seized the tanker on July 4 off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory of Gibraltar on suspicion of violating EU sanctions by taking oil to Syria, which Tehran denies.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted unidentified Gibraltar authorities as saying the tanker would bee freed on Tuesday evening.

A senior Gibraltarian government source said that report was not correct. 

In touch with Britain over seized tanker - Iran 

Iran's port authority said it has been in contact with British authorities as part of efforts to secure the release of its tanker.

A court in Gibraltar is to decide the fate of the ship on Thursday, when an order for its detention lapses.

The deputy head of Iran's port authority, Jalil Eslami, said in a report by state news agency IRNA that Britain had shown an interest in overcoming the problem and documents had been exchanged.

Gibraltar seeks to ease tanker standoff with Iran

Gibraltar said it was seeking to de-escalate issues arising with Iran since the detention of the Grace 1 tanker.

"We continue to seek to de-escalate issues arising since the lawful detention of Grace 1," a spokesman for Gibraltar said. 

The current detention order on the vessel expires on Saturday night, the spokesman said.

Saturday, August 10

Iran unveils 'overhauled' air defence system

Iran unveiled a new air defence system it says is capable of detecting missiles and drones at a range of 400 kilometres (250 miles), ISNA news agency reported.

The "Falagh" is a locally overhauled version of the imported "Gamma" surveillance radar, the semi-official news agency said, in an apparent reference to a Russian-made system of that name.

It had been inoperable due to "sanctions, lack of spare parts and the inability of foreign engineers to carry out repairs", it added.

Friday, August 9 

Iran warns against  Israeli involvement in maritime coalition

Any Israeli involvement in a maritime coalition in the Gulf is a "clear threat" to Iran's national security and it has a right to confront the threat, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mousavi said on Friday, according to a statement on the ministry's website.

Israeli media quoted Foreign Minister Israel Katz as telling a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that Israel was part of discussions and intelligence-sharing with a possible US maritime security coalition. Israeli officials declined to confirm or deny the reports. 

Thursday, August 8

Iran says US mission will 'increase insecurity'

Iran's defence minister said the formation of a US-led flotilla in the Gulf would "increase insecurity" and any Israeli involvement would have "disastrous consequences" for the region.

"The military coalition that America is seeking to form with the excuse of securing maritime transport will only increase insecurity in the region," Defence Minister Hatami said in a conference call with counterparts from Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Reacting to reports of Israeli willingness to join the coalition, he said it would be "highly provocative and can have disastrous consequences for the region."

Calling the US the main source of tensions in the region, Hatami called on Gulf countries to enter "constructive talks" to provide maritime security by themselves.

US asks for transit plans

Washington said that US-flagged commercial vessels should send their transit plans for the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf waters to US and British naval authorities ahead of time. This comes from the US Maritime Administration in an advisory on Iran threats.

"Heightened military activity and increased political tensions in this region continue to pose serious threats to commercial vessels," said the advisory.

Vessels should also alert the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations in the event of any incident or suspicious activity, it added, saying that crews should not forcibly resist any Iranian boarding party.

Tuesday, August 6

Israel to join US mission

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz has said that his country will join the US-led coalition, to protect trade routes in the Persian Gulf, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.

According to an Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Katz claimed that he had recently met a "high ranking persona" from the UAE, to improve ties between Israel and Arab states.

“Israel is part of the US-led coalition to protect trade routes in the Persian Gulf,” Katz said.

“It is an Israeli interest to stop Iranian entrenchment in the region and strengthen relationship with Gulf countries,” he added.

According to the newspaper, Katz said in a meeting of ministers that Israel has no conflict with Gulf nations.

So far only Britain has officially said it would join the mission to protect merchant ships after Iran seized a British-flagged vessel.

Rouhani says Iran favours talks but US must lift sanctions

Rouhani said on Tuesday that Tehran favours talks with Washington but the US must first lift sanctions it imposed on Iran.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran favours talks and negotiations and, if the US really wants to talk, before anything else it should lift all sanctions," Rouhani said in remarks aired live on state television.

He added, "peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars".

Rouhani, speaking at the foreign ministry after meeting with his top diplomat Zarif, said Iran was ready for talks regardless of whether or not the US was party to a landmark nuclear deal.

Monday, August 5

Germany not to join US mission

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday reiterated that Germany would not join a US-led naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz, adding that Berlin favoured a European mission but warned it was rather difficult to make progress on that. 

“At the moment the Britons would rather join an American mission. We won’t do that,” Maas told reporters. 

"We want a European mission," he said, adding that the issue was not off the agenda but it would take time to convince the European Union to carry out such a mission. 

The US Embassy in Berlin said on Tuesday the United States had asked Germany to join France and Britain in a mission to protect shipping through the strait and "combat Iranian aggression".

Sunday, August 4

Iran seizes 'foreign tanker' smuggling fuel: state media

Iranian media say the Revolutionary Guard has seized an oil tanker carrying 700,000 litres of "smuggled fuel" in the Persian Gulf.

The semi-official Fars news agency says seven crew members were detained when the ship was seized late Wednesday. It did not provide further details on the vessel or the nationality of the crew.

This would mark the third commercial vessel seized by Iranian forces in recent weeks and the second accused of smuggling fuel. Tensions have soared in the Gulf in recent months as the US has boosted its military presence and oil tankers have been seized by Iranian forces or targeted by unknown saboteurs.

The tensions are rooted in the US decision last year to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear accord and impose sweeping sanctions on Iran.

Saturday, August 3

Iran will take 'third step' to reduce commitments to nuclear deal - Zarif

Iran will take the third step to reduce its commitments to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal within the framework of the pact, Zarif said on Saturday, according to parliamentary news agency ICANA.

"The third step in reducing commitments to (the nuclear deal) will be implemented in the current situation," he said.

"We have said that if (the deal) is not completely implemented by others then we will also implement it in the same incomplete manner. And, of course, all of our actions have been within the framework of (the deal)."

Thursday, August 1

"Childish" of US to sanction Iran foreign minister – Rouhani

Rouhani accused the US of "childish behaviour" on Thursday over Washington's sanctioning of Iran's foreign minister amid rising tensions between the two countries.

"They (Americans) are resorting to childish behaviour ... they were claiming every day: 'we want to talk, with no preconditions' ... and then they sanction the foreign minister," Rouhani said. 

"This means they have lost the power of rational thought."

Wednesday, July 31

US puts sanctions on Iranian foreign minister Zarif

The US on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Zarif, targeting the country's top spokesman and potentially hurting chances of diplomatic talks amid rising tensions between the two countries.

Zarif, a critical figure in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, dismissed the action and said it would not affect him.

"Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world. The US is sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behaviour is completely unacceptable," Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said.

The sanctions against Zarif would block any property or interests he has in the US, but the Iranian foreign minister said he had none.

UAE, Iran hold rare talks in Tehran on maritime security

Officials from the UAE and Iran met to discuss maritime security for the first time in six years amid a spike in tensions in the Persian Gulf, both countries confirmed on Wednesday.

The meeting is significant because the UAE and Iran are regional rivals. The UAE downgraded ties with Iran in 2016 and has long pushed for more hawkish US policies toward Tehran, including supporting tough American sanctions.

An Emirati official told AP that the meetings focused on issues related to border security and navigation in shared waters, describing the talks as "nothing new" and unrelated to current tensions. The official said there were periodic meetings scheduled between technical teams in both countries and this was the sixth one to take place.

Stoltenberg says no NATO mission requested in Strait of Hormuz

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday there had been no formal request for the military alliance to launch a mission in the Strait of Hormuz.

The United States has proposed stepping up efforts to safeguard the vital oil route at a time of heightened tension between Washington and Tehran.

Germany: European naval mission in Strait of Hormuz worth considering

The German government has not offered any contribution to a US naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz but thinks it is "worth considering" a European mission and is in touch with its partners on that, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

"The government is reticent about the concrete US proposal and so has no made an offer," the spokeswoman told a news conference.

"For us, it is important to pursue the avenue of diplomacy ... and to seek talks with Iran to achieve a de-escalation," the spokeswoman added. 

Iran says it is ready for dialogue if Saudi Arabia is also ready

Iran is ready for dialogue if Saudi Arabia is also ready, Iran's Zarif said on Wednesday, according to the IRIB news agency.

"If Saudi Arabia is ready for dialogue, we are always ready for dialogue with our neighbours," Zarif said. "We have never closed the door to dialogue with our neighbours and we will never close the door to dialogue with our neighbours."

Iran dismisses Pompeo's 'hypocritical' offer to visit

Iran has dismissed Pompeo's offer to visit and address the Iranian people as a "hypocritical gesture."

Addressing Pompeo in remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Zarif said, "You don't need to come to Iran." He suggested Pompeo instead grant visas for Iranian reporters to travel to the US and interview him, accusing him of having rejected their requests.

On Monday, Pompeo tweeted, "We aren't afraid of [Zarif] coming to America where he enjoys the right to speak freely. Are the facts of the [Khamenei] regime so bad he cannot let me do the same thing in Tehran?" he said, referring to the supreme leader.

"What if his people heard the truth, unfiltered, unabridged?"

Iran to further cut nuclear deal commitments - Zarif

Iran is set to further cut its commitments to its international nuclear deal unless its European partners move to protect it from US sanctions by ensuring it can sell oil and receive income, its foreign minister told state TV on Wednesday.

"Under current circumstances and if no action is taken [by the Europeans], we will take the next step [in cutting commitments]," Zarif said, adding that its European partners should guarantee Iran could sell its oil and collect the revenue.

Iran has said it will reduce its commitment to the nuclear accord in stages and may even withdraw from the pact unless the Europeans find ways to shield its economy from the US sanctions.

Iran says Europe 'obliged' to let it sell and ship oil

Iran said on Wednesday that European nations still party to the 2015 nuclear deal are "obliged" to allow it to sell and ship oil, amid a standoff with Britain over the seizure of tankers.

"They [the European parties] have set out their commitments and announced them, they [include] the sale of Iran's oil, the transportation of Iran's oil, and the return of Iran's oil income," said Zarif.

"It is clear that today's tensions and problems are due to America's economic terrorism and Europe's inability to fulfil its commitments which means going along with America's economic terrorism," he said, quoted by state media.

UK warship commander says Iran trying 'to test' Britain in Gulf

The commander of a British warship accompanying UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions with Iran said on Wednesday that Tehran appeared to be testing the Royal Navy's resolve.

William King, commander of HMS Montrose, said during 27 days patrolling the flashpoint entrance to the Gulf he had had 85 "interactions with Iranian forces," which had often led to "an exchange of warnings" over radio.

"That gives you some idea of the intensity ... [it] is perhaps more than we've seen of recent times," he told BBC Radio in a phone interview from aboard the frigate.

"The Iranians seem to be keen to test our resolve, test our reactions most of the time," King added.

"They'll claim that perhaps our presence is illegitimate, even though we're completely lawfully in international waters."

"They may also run boats in at speed towards us, to test what warning levels we get to."

Tuesday, July 30

Zarif calls on Trump to reject hawkish allies' thirst for war

Iran's foreign minister called on Trump to reject his hawkish allies' thirst for war, adding Iranians had outlasted every aggressor for millennia.

"For millennia, Iranians have outlasted every aggressor ... @realDonaldTrump: reject #B_Team's fake history & its thirst for #ForeverWar. Diplomacy=prudence; never weakness," Zarif tweeted.

Zarif has in the past said that a so-called "B-team" including Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and conservative Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu could goad Trump into a conflict with Tehran.

Trump tweeted on Monday: "Just remember, the Iranians never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!". 

Iran and UAE to hold maritime security talks

Iran was to revive maritime security talks on Tuesday with traditional foe the UAE in an apparent bid to calm tensions in the Gulf, although a Gulf official described the discussions as routine and technical.

The discussions had been off since 2013, but the UAE is widely seen in the region as wanting to guard its reputation as a safe business hub.

"The 6th joint meeting will be held on Tuesday between a visiting seven-member delegation from the UAE's coast guard and Iranian officials in Tehran," Iran's Students News Agency (ISNA) reported.

Without giving a source, ISNA said issues from shared borders, visits by citizens of each nation, illegal entries, and maritime connections would be discussed.

A Gulf official said the meeting was not related to tensions in the region.

"It is a technical meeting that was organised a long time ago to discuss routine maritime issues," the official told Reuters.

US asks Germany to join Hormuz mission – Berlin Embassy

The United States has formally asked Germany to join France and Britain in a mission to secure the Strait of Hormuz and to combat Iranian aggression, the US embassy in Berlin said on Tuesday.

"We've formally asked Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Strait of Hormuz and combat Iranian aggression. Members of the German government have been clear that freedom of navigation should be protected ... Our question is, protected by whom," said an embassy spokeswoman.

The comments, initially reported by Germany's DPA news agency, were confirmed by an embassy spokesman.

There is considerable opposition among Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition, to getting involved in a US-led mission.

"The German government has already rejected participation in the US military mission, Operation Sentinel, to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz," said Nils Schmid, a foreign affairs spokesman for the SPD parliamentary party.

"It should stay like that. Otherwise, there is a risk of being pulled into a war against Iran on the side of the United States."

Monday, July 29

'Talks with US possible if they lead to tangible results'

Talks between Iran and the United States would be possible if based on an agenda that could lead to tangible results, but Washington is not seeking dialogue, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mousavi said on Monday.

Trump has said he would be willing to hold talks with the Islamic Republic.

"Dialogue and negotiation can be held when we have a certain agenda in place and when we could get some tangible and practical results out of it," Mousavi said in a news conference broadcast live on Press TV.

He added, "They are not for talks. They are not seeking dialogue."

Sunday, July 28

Oman 'not mediating' Gulf tensions – minister

Oman is not undertaking any mediation efforts around rising tensions in the Gulf region but is in contact with "all parties" in order to maintain stability in the Strait of Hormuz, Oman's minister in charge of foreign affairs said.

"We are not mediating, but what we are more concerned with, in this case, is securing the stability of navigation in the Hormuz Strait, so we are in contact with all parties," Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah told Omani state TV after meeting Iranian officials in Tehran.

Foreign troops main Gulf tension source - Rouhani

The presence of foreign forces would be the main source of tension in the Gulf, Rouhani said on Sunday in a meeting with Oman's foreign minister in Tehran, according to the official presidency website. 

France, Italy, and Denmark gave initial support for a British plan for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, proposed after Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker, three senior EU diplomats said last week. 

"The presence of foreign forces will not only not help the security of the region, but will be the main factor for tension," Rouhani said, saying Iran and Oman had primary responsibility for securing the Strait of Hormuz.

"The roots of the unpleasant events and tension in the region today are the unilateral withdrawal of America (from the2015 nuclear deal)," he said

Iran intends to restart activities at nuclear reactor

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, told lawmakers on Sunday that Iran will restart activities at the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, the ISNA news agency reported.

ISNA cited a member of parliament who attended the meeting.

Heavy water can be employed in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads.

Later on Sunday, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China will meet Iran in Vienna to discuss how to save the accord in an extraordinary meeting.

The meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal's formal name, will be chaired by the EU foreign policy service's Secretary General Helga Schmid.

European naval mission in Gulf would be 'provocative' – Iran

Iran slammed as "provocative" a British proposal for a European-led naval mission to escort tankers in the Gulf, amid soaring tensions over the seizure of ships.

"We heard that they intend to send a European fleet to the Persian Gulf which naturally carries a hostile message, is provocative and will increase tensions," government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, quoted by ISNA.

Saturday, July 27

Iran's Zarif hosts Oman's top diplomat

Oman’s minister responsible for foreign affairs held talks with Iran's foreign minister in Tehran, Iranian state media reported.

Oman maintains friendly ties with both the United States and Iran and has previously been a go-between for the two countries, which severed diplomatic relations after the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif met Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, state television reported, without giving details of the talks.

"The visit was conducted in the framework of bilateral relations and continuous consultations of the two countries with the aim of exchanging views on recent regional developments, bilateral relations, ... and international issues," state television reported.

Oman's foreign ministry said on Twitter the two ministers discussed stability and security in the region and freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, shared by the two countries and which is the only route in and out of the Gulf.

Russian diplomats visit British tanker detained by Iran

Employees of the Russian embassy in Iran visited the British Stena Impero tanker, detained by Tehran in the Strait of Hormuz.

The diplomats talked to the Russian citizens who are part of the vessel crew, the embassy said in a Twitter post.

"The health of the sailors is good, they are still on board. The embassy is in close contact with Iranian partners on the issue of the timing of their return to home," the ministry said in the post along with the photos of three crew members.

According to Russia's TASS news agency, the embassy said the Russian citizens have no complaints, they are provided with all the things needed and can communicate with their relatives, but with some restrictions.

Thursday, July 25

British navy to escort UK-flagged ships

Britain ordered its navy to escort UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz after Iranian soldiers seized a tanker in the flashpoint Gulf region.

"The Royal Navy has been tasked to accompany British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz, either individually or in groups, should sufficient notice be given of their passage," said the defence ministry.

Wednesday, July 24

Iran hints at quid pro quo for seized British ship

Rouhani suggested releasing the British-flagged ship that was seized by Iran on Friday, if the UK agrees to release an Iranian oil tanker that the British Royal Navy captured off Gibraltar earlier this month.

The move could provide a chance to reduce tensions between the two countries for incoming British Prime Minister Johnson.

"We do not seek the continuation of tension with some European countries," Rouhani said in comments posted on his website. 

"Should they be committed to international frameworks and give up their wrong actions, including what they did in Gibraltar, they will receive a proportional response from Iran."

Iran ready to negotiate but not surrender – Rouhani

Iran is ready for "just" negotiations but not if they mean surrender, Rouhani said, without saying what talks he had in mind.

Rouhani seemed to be referring to possible negotiations with the United States. 

"As long as I have the responsibility for the executive duties of the country, we are completely ready for just, legal and honest negotiations to solve the problems," Rouhani said, according to his official website.

"But at the same time, we are not ready to sit at the table of surrender under the name of negotiations," he said, adding, "The world should be thankful that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are preserving the security of the Straight of Hormuz."

Iran says it will secure Strait of Hormuz

Iran will secure the Strait of Hormuz and not allow any disturbance in shipping in the key oil transport waterway, Araghchi said on Tuesday during a visit to Paris, the state news agency IRNA reported.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stressed the need for Tehran to quickly respect the 2015 nuclear accord it has breached and "make the needed gestures" to deescalate mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf region.

France is working "at this moment on a European initiative" with Britain and Germany, Le Drian told lawmakers, without elaborating. "This vision is the opposite of the American initiative, which is ... maximum pressure" against Iran.

First British vessel transits Hormuz after tanker seizure  

A large British-flagged vessel has transited the Strait of Hormuz in the first such passage made by a British ship since Iran seized a UK-flagged tanker last week.

Maritime publication Lloyd's List identified the vessel as BW Elm and reported that British warship HMS Montrose closely shadowed the vessel but did not provide a direct escort.

The Royal Navy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Data on tracking site Marine Traffic showed the commercial ship arrived at a port in Qatar early Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 23

US says it 'engaged' two Iranian drones, not one

The US military says that when it destroyed an Iranian drone last week over the Strait of Hormuz, it also took aim at a second drone.

Iran denies it lost any drones.

US Central Command says that one Iranian drone crashed into the sea after the USS Boxer took what Central Command called "defensive action" against it last Thursday. It said the Boxer also "engaged" a second Iranian drone at the same time, but could not confirm it was destroyed.

Vienna meeting on Iran nuke deal

Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China will meet in Vienna on July 28 to discuss how to save the 2015 nuclear deal, the EU's foreign policy service said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The meeting has been convened at the request of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Iran, and will examine issues linked to the implementation of the JCPOA in all its aspects," the statement said.

The Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal's formal name, will be chaired by the EU foreign policy service's Secretary General Helga Schmid. 

Iran warns new British PM it will 'protect' Gulf waters

Iran warned Britain's next prime minister Johnson that it will "protect" waters of the oil-rich Gulf, amid a standoff between the two countries over the seizure of tankers.

"I congratulate my former counterpart, @BorisJohnson on becoming UK PM," Zarif tweeted after Johnson beat his rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, in a party vote.

"Iran does not seek confrontation. But we have 1500 miles of Persian Gulf coastline. These are our waters & we will protect them," Iran's top diplomat wrote.

Monday, July 22

Britain planning 'European-led protection force'

Britain will seek to put together a European-led maritime protection mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz after Iran seized a British-flagged vessel in what London said was an act of "state piracy".

"Under international law, Iran had no right to obstruct the ship's passage - let alone board her. It was, therefore, an act of state piracy," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament.

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

Britain's May to chair emergency session on seized tanker

Prime Minister Theresa May will chair an emergency security session to discuss how to respond to Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.

The meeting of security ministers and officials will discuss how to secure shipping in the sensitive region, which is vital to the world's oil supply.

Foreign Secretary Hunt is also expected to brief Parliament on the Friday seizure of the Stena Impero tanker, now in a heavily guarded Iranian port.

Britain is considering a number of options to raise the economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran but officials say military operations are not being considered at the moment. 

Sunday, July 21

All crew members 'safe and in good health' - Iran

All 23 crew members of the seized British-flagged Stena Impero tanker were "safe and in good health", the head of the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran in Hormozgan Province told stateTV.

"All the 23 crew members are aboard the ship are safe and ingood health in Bandar Abbas port," said Allahmorad Afifipour.

The crew are from India, Latvia, the Philippines and Russia.

Iran says its seizure of British ship a 'reciprocal' move

Iran's seizure of a British oil tanker was a response to Britain's role in impounding an Iranian supertanker first, senior officials said, as newly released video of the incident, showed Iranian commandos in black ski masks and fatigues rappelling from a helicopter onto the vessel in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

In a dramatic video released by the Revolutionary Guard, several small Guard boats can be seen surrounding the larger tanker as it moves through the strait.

Above, a military helicopter hovers and then several men wearing black masks begin to rappel onto the ship.

FM Jeremy Hunt set to freeze Iran assets 
British ministers are making plans aimed at targeting Iran with sanctions in the aftermath of the Iranian seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf, the DailyTelegraph newspaper reported.

Hunt is expected to announce on Sunday diplomatic and economic measures, including potential asset freezes, as a response to the incident, according to the report.

Britain could push for United Nations and European Union sanctions to be reimposed on Iran after they had been lifted in 2016 following a deal on Iran's nuclear program, the Telegraph reported.
Saturday, July 20

Britain says Iran seized its tanker in Omani waters

London wants to de-escalate tensions with Tehran, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saturday following a meeting of the UK's emergencies committee over Iran's seizure of a British-flagged ship in the Gulf.

The meeting "reaffirmed UK desire to de-escalate," Hunt said, adding that the Stena Impero oil tanker was seized in Omani waters "in clear contravention of international law" in "utterly unacceptable" circumstances.

The seizure came hours after a court in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar said it would extend by 30 days the detention of Grace 1, an Iranian tanker seized two weeks ago in an operation aided by British Royal Marines on allegations of breaching EU sanctions against Syria.

Hunt said that having spoken to his Iranian counterpart Zarif, Tehran saw the situation as a "tit for tat."

Iran may be on 'dangerous path' after seizing tanker

Hunt said on Saturday that he was worried that Iran had taken a "dangerous path" after it seized a British-flagged tanker on Friday in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran's Fars news agency reported that the Stena Impero had been taken to the port of Bander Abbas, which faces the strait, after it said the tanker had been involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing vessel.

The Foreign Office in London also summoned Iran's charge d'affaires on Saturday, the ministry said.

British-flagged tanker was in accident with fishing boat - Iran

The British-flagged tanker Stena Impero was in an accident with a fishing boat before being detained on Friday, Iran's Fars news agency reported on Saturday, quoting an official.

Iran says all 23 crew seized on the tanker are now at Bandar Abbas port and will remain on the vessel until the end of an investigation, according to Fars.

"It got involved in an accident with an Iranian fishing boat... When the boat sent a distress call, the British-flagged ship ignored it," said the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour.

"The tanker is now at Iran's Bandar Abbas port and all of its 23 crew members will remain on the ship until the probe is over."

Britain said earlier it was urgently seeking information about the Stena Impero, which had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait at the mouth of the Gulf.

Germany, France call on Iran to release tanker

Germany and France on Saturday called on Iran to immediately release the British oil tanker, in statements issued by their foreign ministries.

The capture of the Swedish-owned, British-flagged Stena Impero was a "dangerous further aggravation of an already tense situation," the German statement said.

UK warns British ships to avoid Hormuz Strait

London Saturday advised British ships to avoid the Strait of Hormuz for "an interim period" following Iran's seizure of the British-flagged tanker.

"We remain deeply concerned about Iran's unacceptable actions which represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation," a government spokeswoman said following an overnight meeting of the government's COBRA emergencies committee.

"We have advised UK shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period."

Friday, July 19

Second ship seized by Iran – UK

Britain said Iran's seizure of a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel in the Strait of Hormuz was unacceptable and called for freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

"I'm extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.

"I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels - a British-flagged vessel and a Liberian-flagged vessel," he said.

"These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region," Hunt said.

Iran says it has seized a British oil tanker

Iran's Revolutionary Guard says it has seized a British oil tanker that was passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

The Guard's website, sepahnews.com, said the tanker "Stena Impero" was seized on Friday by the Guard's forces for "non-compliance with international maritime laws and regulations" and has transferred the vessel to an Iranian port.

The company that manages the vessel said it was unable to contact the crew after it was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter during transit of the Strait of Hormuz.

Northern Marine Management said the tanker was now heading north towards Iran. Northern Marine Group is owned by Stena AB.

Britain said it was urgently seeking further information after a British-flagged tanker took a sudden turn into Iranian waters.

Prime Minister May's office declined to comment.

Pompeo says Iran needs to 'come to the table' 

Pompeo said that the United States needed Iran to "come to the table" for negotiations, amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran in the Gulf that have impacted global oil markets.

Pompeo, speaking at a counterterrorism summit in Buenos Aires, also repeated an offer from Trump for talks without preconditions.

"The Iranians continue to say they will talk about it, but only if the United States does something.

We need them to come to the table, it's the right way to resolve these challenges," Pompeo told reporters.

Footage disproves US downed drone – Iran

Iran's state TV aired footage it said disproved Trump's assertion that the US Navy has destroyed an Iranian drone in the Gulf.

The video published by the Revolutionary Guard showed aerial views of warships. The TV station said the drone had captured the footage and timing notations showed the drone was still filming after Washington said it had been downed in the Strait of Hormuz.

Trump said on Thursday that the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards (900 metres) of the US warship Boxer and had ignored "multiple calls to stand down."

Detention of Iran supertanker extended 

Gibraltar's Supreme Court has granted a 30-day extension to allow authorities there to continue to detain the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 until August 15.

The vessel was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria.

"At a private meeting of the Supreme Court on an application by the attorney general, the court has extended the period of detention of the vessel, Grace 1, for a further 30 days and has set a new hearing for 15 August 2019," the Gibraltar government said.

All Iran's drones returned safely to base - military

Iran's top military spokesman said all the country's drones had returned safely to base, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, after Trump said a US Navy ship had "destroyed" one.

"All drones belonging to Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz ... returned safely to their bases after their mission of identification and control, and there is no report of any operational response by USS Boxer," Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior armed forces spokesman, was quoted as saying by Tasnim.

Iran has not lost any drones – deputy foreign minister

Araqchi denied on Friday that Iran had lost a drone in the Strait of Hormuz after the United States said that a US Navy ship had "destroyed" an Iranian drone.

"We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake!," Araqchi said on Twitter, referring to a US warship in the strategic waterway.

Thursday, July 18

Iran drone destroyed - Pentagon

A US Navy ship destroyed an Iranian fixed-wing drone in a “defensive action,” escalating tensions in the Gulf after the drone came within "threatening range."

The USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, shot down the drone for flying too close to the ship in the Strait of Hormuz earlier Thursday, according to a statement by Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.

The incident took place about 10 am local time as the Boxer was transiting into the Strait of Hormuz.

“The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew,” he added.

In remarks at the White House, Trump blamed Iran for a "provocative and hostile" action and said the US responded in self-defence.

"The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce," Trump said.

Zarif responded by saying he was not aware of any downing of an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday after Trump said the US military had shot one down in the Strait of Hormuz.

"We have no information about losing a drone today," Zarif told reporters at the United Nations before a meeting with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Foreign tanker detained - Revolutionary Guards

Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they had detained a "foreign tanker" and its crew for allegedly smuggling fuel in the Gulf.

The tanker was seised on Sunday "south of the (Iranian) island of Larak" in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the force's Sepahnews website said.

The Guards did not detail the name or provenance of the vessel.

"With a capacity of two million barrels and 12 foreign crew on board, the vessel was en route to deliver contraband fuel received from Iranian boats to foreign ships in farther regions when it was intercepted," the force said.

The announcement comes two days after Iran said it had come to the aid of a foreign tanker after receiving a distress call – making no mention of the vessel being seized.

Wednesday, July 17

US unsure whether Iran seized tanker

US officials say they are unsure whether an oil tanker towed into Iranian waters was seized by Iran or rescued after facing mechanical faults as Tehran asserts, creating a mystery at sea at a time of high tension in the Gulf.

The MT Riah disappeared from ship tracking maps when its transponder was switched off in the Strait of Hormuz on July 14. Its last position was off the coast of the Iranian island of Qeshm in the strait.

A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it appeared that the tanker was in Iranian territorial waters, but it was not clear whether that was because Iran had seized it or rescued it.

The mystery comes at a time when Washington has called for greater security for ships in the Gulf.

Adding to the riddle of the missing ship was difficulty establishing who owns it, which no country or company has so far publicly claimed. Initial reports described it as Emirati. However, an Emirati official told Reuters the tanker was neither owned nor operated by the UAE.

Tuesday, July 16

UAE oil tanker goes missing

A small oil tanker from the UAE travelling through the Strait of Hormuz entered Iranian waters and turned off its tracker two days ago, leading the US to suspect Iran seized the vessel amid heightened tensions in the region, an American defence official said on Tuesday. 

Iran offered no immediate comment on what happened to the Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Riah late on Saturday night.

 An Emirati official acknowledged the vessel sent out no distress call. 

Oil tankers previously have been targeted in the wider region amid tensions between the US and Iran over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Trump says US not seeking 'regime change' in Iran

Trump said Washington is not pushing to topple Iran's leadership but is determined to stop it acquiring nuclear weapons.

"We are not looking for regime change. We are not looking for that at all," Trump said during a cabinet meeting. "They can't have a nuclear weapon."

The United States quit an international deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program last year, hitting Tehran with crippling sanctions. Iran said last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 3 00-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.

Monday, July 15

2015 nuclear deal 'still alive'

The European Union's top Foreign Policy chief says the Iran nuclear deal is "not in the best of health, but still alive".

Mogherini addressed the media on Monday after European Union nations threw their diplomatic weight behind the unraveling Iran nuclear deal on Monday, trying to rescue the pact from collapsing under US pressure.

The 28 EU foreign ministers insisted that recent Iranian actions surpassing uranium enrichment thresholds set by the 2015 deal did not necessarily condemn the whole agreement.

"We hope and we invite Iran to reverse these steps and go back to full compliance with the agreement,"

Mogherini also admitted that the EU's efforts would probably not be enough to mitigate the impact of the US's decision to withdraw from the agreement and impose sanctions on Iran.

Noting that Iran was "still a good year away" from potentially developing a nuclear bomb, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was still a "small window to keep the deal alive."

Israel: EU's response to Iran recalls Nazi appeasement

Netanyahu condemned a European Union response on Monday to Iran's breaches of nuclear limitations, saying it recalled failed diplomacy with Nazi Germany ahead of World War Two.

"(It) reminds me of the European appeasement of the 1930s," Netanyahu said in a video statement after EU foreign policy chief Mogherini said none of the parties to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran saw its increased uranium enrichment as "significant non-compliance".

"Then, too, there were those who stuck their head in the sand and did not see the approaching danger," said Netanyahu, who has often cast Iran's nuclear projects as a mortal menace to Israel and the wider world. 

Sunday, July 14

European powers urge dialogue in Iran nuclear crisis 

Britain, France and Germany called for dialogue and an end to the escalation over Iran's nuclear programme. 

The three key European powers expressed concern that the 2015 deal risked further unravelling but said it was up to Tehran to ensure the deal survived.

"We believe the time has come to act responsibly and seek a path to stop the escalation of tensions and resume dialogue," said the English-language version of the statement issued by the Elysee.

"The risks are such that it is necessary for all stakeholders to pause and consider the possible consequences of their actions," it added.

Iran ready to talk if US lifts sanctions - Rouhani

Iran is ready to hold talks with the US if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal it quit last year, Iranian Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday.

Trump's administration says it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues.

But Iran has made any talks conditional on first being able to export as much oil as it did before the US withdrew from the nuclear pact with world powers in May 2018.

"We have always believed in talks ... if they lift sanctions, end the imposed economic pressure and return to the deal, we are ready to hold talks with America today, right now and anywhere," Rouhani said in his Sunday speech.

Saturday, July 13

Iran tanker will be freed after guarantees - UK

Hunt sought to ease tensions with Iran, saying a tanker held by Gibraltar would be released if Tehran guaranteed it was not heading to Syria.

He said he had a "constructive call" with his Iranian counterpart Zarif, who he said assured him that Tehran "is not seeking to escalate" tensions between the countries.

"I reassured him our concern was destination, not origin of the oil on Grace One," a tanker seized off the coast of the tiny British territory of Gibraltar on July 4, Hunt tweeted.

An Iranian statement confirmed the conversation and said Hunt underlined Iran's "right to export oil".

It added that Tehran hoped that an investigation in Gibraltar into the seized ship "would lead quickly to the release of the Iranian tanker".

Friday, July 12

Gibraltar police say that all four crew members of the Iranian Grace 1 tanker have been released on bail without charge after it was detained last week on suspicion of breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.

The police said earlier in the day that they had arrested the two second mates from the tanker, a day after the vessel's captain and chief officer were arrested.

It did not elaborate, but said the investigation was ongoing and that the Grace 1 continues to be detained.

Britain sends second warship to Gulf

Britain is sending a second warship to the Gulf amid growing tensions with Iran after Royal Marines seized an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar lastweek.

As part of our long-standing presence in the Gulf, HMS Duncan warship is deploying to the region, Britain said. 

Earlier Sky News reported the destroyer, which had been earmarked for deployment in the region anyway although not so soon, would sail to the Gulf in the next few days to join the frigate, HMS Montrose.

Decision to seize tanker unilateral - Gibraltar 

Gibraltar said its action last week to detain Iranian tanker Grace 1 was a decision it took on its own and not at the behest of any other state or third party, the British overseas territory's chief minister said on Friday.

“The decisions of Her Majesty’s government of Gibraltar were taken totally independently, based on breaches of existing law and not at all based on extraneous political considerations,” Fabian Picardo told Gibraltar’s parliament.

"All relevant decisions in respect of this matter were taken only as a direct result of the government of Gibraltar having reasonable grounds to believe the vessel was acting in breach of established EU sanctions against Syria," Picardo said.

"There has been no political request at any time from any government that Gibraltar should act or not act on one basis or another."

The vessel contained 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, he said.

Spain had said the tanker was intercepted by British authorities after a request from the United States.

'This is a dangerous game' – Iran to UK

Iran called on Britain to immediately release its oil tanker which British Royal Marines seized last week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mousavi told state news agency IRNA.

"This is a dangerous game and has consequences ... the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid ... the release of the tanker is in all countries' interest ... Foreign powers should leave the region because Iran and other regional countries are capable of securing the regional security," Mousavi said.

Iran has warned of reciprocal measures if the tanker is not released by Britain.

Thursday, July 11

US looks at military escorts

The Pentagon said on Thursday it was discussing military escorts for vessels in the Gulf one day after armed Iranian boats threatened a British oil tanker.

The White House's nominee to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said Washington was attempting to put together a coalition "in terms of providing military escort, naval escort to commercial shipping."

"I think that that will be developing over the next couple weeks," Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Milley's statement came after London accused Tehran on Thursday of deploying three military vessels to "impede the passage" of a BP tanker, the British Heritage.

"We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region," a Downing Street spokesman said.

Iranian supertanker captain arrested

A spokesman for the Royal Gibraltar Police said officers have arrested the captain and chief officer of a Iranian supertanker suspected of breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to Syria. 

Patrick Payas said the two are in police custody while investigations continue into the movements of the Grace 1 supertanker. He says they have not been formally charged. 

Payas did not have information about their nationalities. 

He said other crew members remain aboard the ship. 

The vessel was intercepted by the British overseas territory on the southern tip of Spain July 4. A senior Spanish official said the operation was requested by the United States. 

The EU and others have imposed sanctions on Syria's Assad regime over its continued crackdown against civilians.

Iran tried to seize British oil tanker – report

Armed Iranian boats attempted to seize a British tanker in strategic Gulf waters on Wednesday but were driven off by a Royal Navy frigate, UK said in a statement, a charge Iran denied.

The Iranians ordered the British Heritage oil tanker, which was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area, to change course and stop in Tehran's nearby waters, CNN said, citing two American officials.

A US aircraft shot video of the incident, which ended when the HMS Montrose –– which was escorting the tanker –– trained its guns on the boats and successfully warned them to back off, the channel said.

Later, the UK government said in a statement that the Iranian vessels only turned away after receiving "verbal warnings" from a UK navy vessel.

"We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to de-escalate the situation in the region," it said.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard denied it "impeded" British tanker in Strait of Hormuz.

Rouhani had warned Britain of "consequences" on Wednesday over the detention of one of the country's oil tankers off the coast of Gibraltar.

"I point out to the British that you initiated insecurity (on the seas) and you shall grasp the consequences of it later on," Rouhani said in comments to the cabinet broadcast by state TV.

Wednesday, July 10

Russia and Iran reject US statements at IAEA meeting

Iran and Russia on Wednesday poured scorn on America's call for Tehran to adhere to limits in a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, at a special meeting of the UN's nuclear watchdog.

The US Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna Jackie Wolcott told the meeting that Iran was engaged in "nuclear extortion".

Iran has said it will disregard certain limits under the JCPOA as long as the remaining parties to the deal - in particular the UK, France and Germany - don't do more to mitigate the impact of crippling US sanctions re-imposed after Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018.

"There is no way to read this as anything other than a crude and transparent attempt to extort payments from the international community," Wolcott said.

Her Iranian counterpart Kazem Gharib Abadi said it was a "sad irony that this meeting is convened with the request of the United States".

Abadi said the current impasse was the result of Washington's "outlaw behaviour" and condemned what he called the "sadistic tendency" of the US to impose sanctions on Iran.

Russia's Ambassador to the IAEA Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted after the meeting that the US "was practically isolated on this issue".

He told the assembled diplomats it was an "oddity" that the meeting had been called by the US, "the country that declared the JCPOA to be a 'terrible deal'".

"In practice, it turns out that Washington is aware of the importance of the Plan (JCPOA)," he said.

In a joint statement to the meeting, Britain, France and Germany took a nuanced position, reflecting their continued diplomatic efforts to save the JCPOA.

They said that "our continued support (for the JCPOA) relies on Iran implementing its commitments in full".

Trump warns of further sanctions

Trump accused Iran on Wednesday of secretly enriching uranium for a long time and warned that US sanctions will be increased soon, as the UN nuclear watchdog held an emergency meeting on Tehran's breach of a nuclear deal.

"Iran has long been secretly 'enriching,' in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration. Remember, that deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!" Trump said on Twitter.

The United States used an emergency meeting of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency's board on Wednesday to pressure Iran over breaches of the 2015 international nuclear deal, accusing it of extortion and pledging to continue sanctions while still offering to hold talks.

US wants military coalition to safeguard Gulf waters

The United States hopes to enlist allies over the next two weeks or so in a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-aligned fighters for attacks, a top US general said on Tuesday.

Under the plan, which has only been finalised in recent days, the United States would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts for the military coalition. Allies would patrol waters near those US command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation's flags.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, articulated those details to reporters following meetings on Tuesday about it with Esper and Secretary of State Pompeo.

"I think probably over the next couple of weeks we'll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we'll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that'll support that," Dunford said.

Tuesday, July 9

Trump lured by allies into killing 2015 nuclear deal - Iran

Zarif has said Trump's allies had tricked him into killing off a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.

Zarif said on Twitter that Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had killed an earlier nuclear agreement in 2005 by insisting that Iran stop all uranium enrichment.

Monday, July 8

Iran goes beyond uranium enrichment limit – IAEA

Iran has enriched uranium beyond 3.67 percent purity limit set by its deal with major powers, the UN nuclear watchdog policing the deal said on Monday, confirming a move previously announced by Tehran.

"(International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General Yukiya Amano has informed the IAEA Board of Governors that Agency inspectors on July 8 verified that Iran is enriching uranium above 3.67% U-235," an IAEA spokesman said.

A report to member states obtained by Reuters said the agency had verified the enrichment level using online enrichment monitors and samples had also been taken on Monday for analysis.

US does not seek war with Iran – Pence

Pence called 2015 Iran nuclear deal "disastrous," saying there will be no more pallets of cash for Iran.

He said US is willing to talk to Iran about its nuclear programme and does not seek war, but said US military is prepared to protect US interests, personnel in the region.

"Iran should not confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve," Pence said in prepared remarks to a conference of the Christians United for Israel advocacy group.

"The United States does not seek a war with Iran. We are willing to talk. We are willing to listen. But America will not back down," Pence said.

There won't be a better deal than 2015 accord - Zarif

World powers will not be able to negotiate a better deal with Iran than the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif tweeted on Monday.

Iran threatened on Monday to restart deactivated centrifuges and ramp up its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity as its next potential big moves away from the agreement that Washington abandoned last year.

Zarif has in the past said that a so-called "B-team" including Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could goad Trump into a conflict with Tehran.

Iran passes 3.67 percent uranium enrichment - AEOI

Iran has passed the 3.67 percent uranium enrichment cap set by its landmark 2015 nuclear deal and may enrich at even higher levels, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Monday according to the IRIB news agency.

"Twenty percent is not needed now, but if we want we will produce it. When we've put aside 3.67 percent enrichment, we have no obstacle or problem with this action," Kamalvandi was quoted as saying, noting that options for enriching at higher levels had been discussed with the Supreme National Security Council.

"There is the 20 percent option and there are options even higher than that but each in its own place. Today if our country's needs are one thing, we won't pursue something else just to scare the other side a little more," he said.

Increasing the number of centrifuges is an option for Iran' s third step in reducing its commitments to the nuclear deal, Kamalvandi said, noting that restarting IR-2 and IR-2 M centrifuges is an option.

The remaining European signatories to the nuclear deal should act quickly to fulfil their promises because Iran will continue reducing its commitments to the deal until it achieves a result, Kamalvandi said, according to IRIB. 

Iran must be persuaded to stick to nuclear deal - Germany

"The ball is clearly in Iran's court. We want to preserve the deal. For this, parties must stick to it," the German foreign ministry spokesman told a regular government news conference.

Asked at which point a red line would be crossed for the German government, the spokesman said: "Our objective is that Iran abides by the deal."

Russia concerned over the growing tensions

Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia is concerned by Iran's uranium enrichment, furthering its breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Peskov said the Kremlin had warned that Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the deal a year ago would entail negative consequences to global security. He called on all parties to use diplomacy to overcome the crisis.

Iran is open to diplomacy but has 'no hope'

Iran remains open to diplomacy to save its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers but has "no hope" in the international community, the foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday.

Mousavi said he had no information on how far Iran had taken its uranium enrichment, though a top aide to Khamenei previously suggested Iran had a need for five-percent-enriched uranium.

"There is a lot of speculation, so we don't know," Mousavi said in response to a question from The Associated Press at a weekly news conference. 

"We will see what we need."

Japan concerned over Iran's uranium enrichment

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said Monday that Japan is "seriously concerned and closely watching" the development on the nuclear deal and increased tension in the Middle East.

Nishimura urged Iran to "immediately return to its commitment under the agreement and avoid any further steps that would undermine the nuclear agreement."

Sunday, July 7

Trump says Iran 'better be careful'

Trump warned Iran on Sunday over its imminent breach of a uranium enrichment cap.

"Iran better be careful, because you enrich for one reason, and I won't tell you what that reason is. But it's no good. They better be careful," he told reporters in Morristown, New Jersey.

The 3.67 percent enrichment limit set in the agreement is far below the more than 90 percent level required for a nuclear warhead.

Iran to face more 'isolation, sanctions' – Pompeo

Iran will face further sanctions in response to its expected breach Sunday of a uranium enrichment cap, Pompeo said.

"Iran's latest expansion of its nuclear programme will lead to further isolation and sanctions," the top US diplomat said on Twitter.

"Nations should restore the long-standing standard of no enrichment for Iran's nuclear programme. Iran's regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world," Pompeo said.

France demands Iran drop uranium enrichment plan

France on Sunday demanded that Iran halt any activity that breaches the 2015 nuclear accord, expressing "great concern" over Tehran's statement that it was set to breach the uranium enrichment cap set under the deal.

"We firmly demand that Iran halt all activities that do not meet its commitments under the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)," foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muehll said in a statement.

"France is in contact with its partners involved to engage in the necessary de-escalation of tensions as part of the Iranian nuclear issue," the statement said.

EU 'concerned' at Iran's decision

The European Union on Sunday strongly urged Iran to stop actions that would undermine a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, saying it was in touch with other parties to the deal and may set up a joint commission to look into the issue.

"We are extremely concerned at Iran's announcement that it has started uranium enrichment above the limit of 3.67 percent," spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic for EU foreign policy chief Mogherini said in a statement.

"We strongly urge Iran to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments ..."

Germany alarmed at Iran's decision

Berlin reacted with alarm to Iran's announcement that it would enrich uranium beyond levels allowed in its 2015 nuclear deal.

"We strongly urge Iran to stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its commitments," a German foreign office spokesman said, naming production of larger quantities of low-enriched uranium as well as enrichment to higher levels than allowed.

"We are in contact with the other JCPoA participants regarding the next steps," Berlin added, referring to the 2015 agreement between Iran and six world powers including Russia, Germany, Britain, and France.

'Stop and reverse' plan to breach nuclear deal

Britain urged Iran to "immediately stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its obligations," hours after Tehran threatened to abandon a landmark nuclear agreement in 60 days. 

"While the UK remains fully committed to the deal, Iran must immediately stop and reverse all activities inconsistent with its obligations," the British Foreign Office said in a statement. 

"We are coordinating with other JCPoA participants regarding the next steps under the terms of the deal," it added.

Detained oil tanker wasn't headed to Syria – Iran

Iran denied that an oil tanker detained by Britain in Gibraltar was carrying crude to Syria, which would put it in violation of EU sanctions.

"The tanker was carrying Iran's oil... Contrary to what the British government claims, its destination was not Syria," said Araghchi at a press conference in Tehran.

"The port named in Syria does not even have the capacity for such a supertanker to dock. Its destination was somewhere else," he added.

The 330-metre (1,000-feet) Grace 1, capable of carrying 2 million oil barrels, was halted in the early hours of Thursday by police and customs agencies in Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain's southern tip at the western entrance to the Mediterranean.

France will not launch dispute resolution

The French government will not trigger the Iran nuclear deal's dispute resolution mechanism for now, instead of giving itself one week to try to get all parties talking again after Iran decided to enrich uranium above limits agreed in 2015.

"It's not an option at this moment," a source at Macron's Elysee office said on Sunday. 

The dispute resolution mechanism could eventually lead to the reimposition of United Nations sanctions on Iran.

Iran's enrichment move a 'very, very dangerous step'

Netanyahu said Iran's decision to enrich uranium was an extremely dangerous move and he again called on Europe to impose punitive sanctions on Tehran.

"This is a very, very dangerous step," Netanyahu said in public remarks to his cabinet.

"Iran has violated its solemn promise under the UN Security Council not to enrich uranium beyond a certain level," he said.

Iran set to exceed nuclear deal uranium enrichment cap

Iran said on Sunday it was set to breach the uranium enrichment cap set by an endangered nuclear deal within hours as it seeks to press signatories into keeping their side of the bargain.

Tehran also threatened to abandon more commitments unless a solution is found with parties to the 2015 agreement.

Rouhani's order to exceed the threshold would be implemented "in a few hours" after the last technical details were sorted, Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said live on state television.

Rouhani initially flagged Tehran's intentions on May 8, exactly a year on from Trump unilaterally abandoning the multilateral deal.

He has said the move is in response to a failure by remaining state signatories to keep their promise to help Iran work around biting sanctions reimposed by the US in the second half of last year.

Araghchi on Sunday singled out Iran's declining oil sales as one of the main issues that needed to be solved, or Tehran would further step back from its commitments.

"We hope we can reach a solution otherwise after 60 days we will take the third step as well," he said, without specifying what the further measures would involve.

France warns of consequences

Macron told Rouhani of his "strong concern" over the risk of weakening the nuclear agreement and the consequences that would follow during a telephone call Saturday, according to a statement from the Elysee Palace.

However, the two leaders agreed to "explore by July 15 the conditions for a resumption of dialogue between all parties", the statement said, adding that Macron would consult with Iranian authorities and international partners to bring about the "necessary de-escalation" of the situation over the coming days.

It is not yet clear how far the Islamic republic will boost enrichment.

But a top adviser to Iran's Khamenei hinted on Friday it could reach five percent.

UN nuclear inspectors to report on enrichment move

Inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog, who are in Iran, will report back once they have checked that Tehran has enriched uranium to a higher level of purity than that allowed under its nuclear deal, the agency said on Sunday.

"We are aware of Iran's announcement related to its uranium enrichment level," a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

"IAEA inspectors in Iran will report to our headquarters as soon as they verify the announced development." 

The 2015 deal was reached between Iran and six world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, the United States and Russia – and saw Tehran agree to drastically scale down its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

Washington withdrew from the deal and began reimposing sanctions in August 2018 and has targeted crucial sectors including oil exports and the banking system, fuelling a deep recession.

The 3.67 percent enrichment limit set in the agreement is sufficient for power generation but far below the more than 90 percent level required for a nuclear warhead.

Rouhani has stressed that Iran's action would be reversed if the other parties provided relief from the US sanctions, insisting his country's policies are not meant to "hurt (the deal), but to preserve" it.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies