Iran threat: Trump vows to stand up for UK amid ‘worst nightmare’ over oil tankers capture

The President told reporters on the White House lawn: “Well, as you know we have a very close alliance with the UK and we always have. We don’t have very many tankers going in but we have a lot of warships there and we’ll talk to the UK. We have no written agreement but we have an agreement but they’ve been a very great ally of ours.

“They will have a new Prime Minister soon, which is a good thing, we don’t have a written agreement but we have an agreement which I think is long-standing.”

Meanwhile Sky’s foreign correspondent Deborah Hayes described the incident as “hugely serious” and the “worst nightmare for the British government.”

She said “it’s an absolute nightmare for Theresa May in her final days in office.”

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has taken control of the Stena Imperil after accusing it of “violating international maritime rules”, Iranian media has reported.

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Stena Bulk, which owns the tanker, confirmed they lost contact with the vessel at about 4pm on Friday after it was approached by “unidentified small crafts and a helicopter”.

The ship now appears to be heading north. A company statement said: “There are 23 seafarers aboard. There have been no reported injuries and their safety is of primary concern to both owners and managers.”

Washington has weighed into the ongoing crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, with White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis saying the US is aware of what is happening in the area.

He said: “We are aware of reports that Iranian forces seized a British oil tanker. The US will continue to work with our allies and partners to defend our security and interests against Iran’s malign behaviour.”

These comments come as Saudi Almarsd Online Newspaper reported a second British oil tanker had been seized.

The British-operated Liberian-flagged Mesdar turned sharply north towards Iran’s coast on Friday afternoon after passing westward through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf, according to Refinitiv tracking data.

The turn took place at about 4pm GMT, the data showed, some 40 minutes after a similar course shift by the Stena Impero tanker that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they had captured.

Neither the Iranian Guards nor the operator of the second tanker have released a statement about what had prompted the change in direction along the vital international oil shipping route.

Saudi Almarsd Online Newspaper tweeted: “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard detains a second oil tanker operated by a British company.”

The Stena Impero was travelling through the Strait of Hormuz when it was captured.

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It was bound for the port of Al Jubail in Saudi Arabia after leaving the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

The Strait of Hormuz is a strategic shipping route between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman responsible for one-fifth of oil seafaring journeys.

The UK Government says it is “urgently” investigating the claims and its emergency committee, Cobra, is meeting now.

A spokeswoman from the UK’s Ministry of Defence said: “We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf.”

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson tweeted: “These reports are a matter of real concern. We know that some days ago there was an attempt to steer a British tanker towards Iranian waters.

“Our ships have the right of safe passage and the Stena Impero must be allowed to continue its voyage unimpeded.

“Any move to seize a British tanker would be a significant and harmful escalation of a situation where de-escalation is needed.”

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office has yet to comment.

The Strait of Hormuz has been at the centre of increased tensions in recent weeks as a war of words escalates between the United States and Iran.

Tehran downed an American drone over the shipping route in June after accusing the White House of entering its country’s territory.

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