Early on Thursday, two American officials, who were speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, claimed that five boats believed to belong to the IRGC had approached the tanker British Heritage at the northern entrance of the Strait of Hormuz and ordered it to stop, presstv.ir reported.
The Iranian boats dispersed, said one of the sources, after the UK’s Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose, which had been escorting the tanker, “pointed its guns at the boats and warned them over radio.”
The other official also called the alleged incident an act of “harassment and an attempt to interfere with the passage.”
However, the IRGG rejected the US officials’ claim, stressing that Iranian boats were carrying out their normal duties.
“In the past 24 hours, there has been no encounter with foreign ships, including British ones,” it added.
The statement further noted that the IRGC Navy’s fifth zone has the power to act “decisively and swiftly” and seize foreign vessels in the area it is tasked with patrolling if an order is issued to that effect.
Similarly, Britain claimed Thursday that three Iranian vessels had tried to block the passage of its tanker but backed off.
“HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” a British government representative said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also reacted to the allegations, saying they are merely meant to create tensions.
The claims came two weeks after British marines illegally seized an Iranian oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar under the pretext that the vessel had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions against the Arab country.
Reports, however, said the seizure took place at the request of the US.
The Islamic Republic condemned the illegal seizure as “maritime piracy” and summoned the British ambassador on three occasions to convey its protest at the confiscation.