In this Tuesday, July 2, 2019 photo, motorists pass by a Popular Mobilization poster of volunteer militants who were killed in Iraq fighting Islamic State militants in Basra, Iraq. The Iraqi government's move to place Iranian-backed militias under the command of the armed forces is a political gamble by a prime minister increasingly caught in the middle of a dangerous rivalry between Iran and the U.S., the two main power brokers in Iraq. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

The Latest: Oil tanker stopped off Gibraltar at US request

July 04, 2019 - 4:23 am

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Latest on U.S.-Iran tensions (all times local):

3:45 p.m.

Spain's caretaker foreign minister says a tanker stopped off Gibraltar and suspected of taking oil to Syria was intercepted by British authorities after a request from the United States.

Josep Borrell told reporters in Madrid on Thursday that Spain is assessing the implications of the operation because the detention took place in waters it considers its own.

The British overseas territory at the tip of Spain said the port and law enforcement agencies, assisted by the Royal Marines, boarded the Grace 1 early Thursday.

Gibraltar's government says the vessel was believed to be headed to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria, a government-owned facility under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad and subject to the EU's Syrian Sanctions Regime. A statement didn't say where the Gibraltar authorities got that information.

Britain insists Gibraltar is part of the United Kingdom but Spain argues that it is not.


2:40 p.m.

One of the largest Iran-backed militias in Iraq is criticizing an order by the prime minister to incorporate the militias into the military and place them under the army's command.

A statement issued by the Hezbollah Brigades, or Kataeb Hezbollah, did not address whether the group would abide by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi's orders issued this week. It suggested, however, that "criminalizing the mujahedeen" and harming them directly or indirectly may hurt "those elements supporting the security effort."

The group, which has close ties to Iran, says the government's foremost responsibility is to remove what it described as U.S. occupation forces and their business affiliates, which constitute a "major threat" to Iraqi security.

The U.S. maintains military bases and more than 5,000 troops in Iraq.


2:30 p.m.

Iran's intelligence minister says any negotiations with the United States would have to be approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and would require the lifting of U.S. sanctions.

Khamenei has until now ruled out talks with the United States, saying it cannot be trusted.

On Thursday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Information Minister Mahmoud Alavi as saying "if the supreme leader permits, negotiations between Iran and the United States will be held." He added, however, that Tehran would not negotiate under pressure.

Tensions have escalated since President Donald Trump withdrew America from Iran's nuclear deal last year and restored heavy sanctions. The U.S. has recently moved a carrier group, bombers and fighter jets to the Persian Gulf, and last month Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone.

12:50 p.m.

The government of Gibraltar says it has detained a large tanker that is believed to be breaching European Union sanctions by carrying a shipment of Iranian crude oil to war-ravaged Syria.

In a statement, authorities on the British overseas territory said port and law enforcement agencies, assisted by the Royal Marines, boarded the Grace 1 super tanker early Thursday.

It added that the vessel was believed to be headed to the Banyas Refinery in Syria, which is part of an entity subject to the EU's Syrian Sanctions Regime. The EU and others have imposed sanctions on President Bashar Assad's government over its continued crackdown against dissent. They currently target 270 people and 70 entities.

Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, says he has informed the EU about developments.