London - The United States government today demanded that British authorities in Gibraltar prolong the seizure of Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, which, if approved, would break the recent negotiation between London and Tehran.
Washington has launched a lawsuit for judicial assistance so that the vessel, held for a month, remains in the custody of the United Kingdom, explained the representative of the Gibraltar prosecutor's office, Joseph Triay.
The US Department of Justice requested the embargo of Grace 1 alleging a number of reasons that are being examined, said a spokesman for the British Government, adding that the hearing was postponed until 4:00 p.m. local time today.
The decision comes at the time that Gibraltar, under British mandate, was preparing to release the ship, after an agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and Iran that seemed within reach.
The news of the imminent release of Grace 1, announced yesterday by the minister of the said enclave, Fabian Ricardo, was received with optimism by Tehran.
The HispanTV television network, the Mehr news agency and the Irib radio and television corporation, reproduced Ricardo's statements that the Iranian oil tanker will return to its rightful owners.
According to experts, such lawsuits imply that the court of one country applies the decision of another foreign judicial body. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Gibraltar government reported that the captain and the three Grace 1 officers, released on bail so far, were formally released.
The current arrest warrant for the ship expired on Saturday and without the intervention of Washington, 'the ship would have left,' confirmed the president of the Court, Judge Anthony Dudley.
The Iranian ship fell into British hands for alleged smuggling of oil to Syria, in violation of European Union sanctions prohibiting such transfer.
That situation led Tehran to strengthen control over the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian-Persian Gulf, as a result of which on July 19, the Guardian Corps of the Islamic Revolution retained British tanker Stena Impero in Iranian waters.
On the eve of today's audience, the dispute between London and Tehran seemed about to be solved.
Jalil Eslami, head of the Iranian port authority, said the United Kingdom was willing to solve the problem and that both countries exchanged documents.