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Iranian oil tanker prepares to leave Gibraltar as US seeks new seizure order

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Iranian oil tanker prepares to leave Gibraltar as US seeks new seizure order
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Reuters
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The Iranian supertanker at the centre of an international diplomatic tug of war is reportedly preparing to leave Gibraltar - even as United States lawyers continue with their legal battle to seize the vessel once more.

The tanker’s agent says it will leave Gibraltan waters as soon as new crews arrive. The ship formally known as Grace 1 has been renamed Adrian Darya 1.

The United States has made a last-ditch attempt to stop an Iranian oil tanker from leaving Gibraltar.

Grace 1 was seized in early July because it was suspected to be in breach of EU sanctions by taking oil to Syria.

But a court in Gibraltar lifted its detention order on Thursday after assurances were secured from Tehran that the cargo wouldn't be used in the war-torn country.

With the vessel and its 2.1 million barrels of oil set to leave, the US launched a separate legal appeal to impound the ship on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it designates as a terrorist organisation.

A federal court in Washington issued a warrant to seize the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.

"A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments," the US attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie Liu, said in a news release. "The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1."

Grace 1 could leave Gibraltar as soon as Sunday, local media report, citing an unnamed source.

The Gibraltar Chronicle said the ship was waiting for six new crew members including a captain to arrive on Sunday before it sets off.

A lawyer for the Grace 1's current captain also told the newspaper that his client had asked to be replaced.

The tanker had appeared to be moving on Friday with more smoke coming from its funnel compared to recent days.

It came as Iran's foreign ministry claimed Grace 1 had not been heading to Syria when it was seized in July.

Gibraltar is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom on the southern tip of Spain.

The UK government has said it is up to Gibraltar to decide what to do and the court said it was seeking to "de-escalate" the situation with Iran.

It comes amid mounting tensions between the West and Iran after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear treaty last year.

The deal signed between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, the UK and the European Union saw Tehran agreeing to eliminate its stockpile of nuclear-enriched uranium and submit to independent inspections in exchange for sanctions relief.

But in May 2018 Donald Trump announced the US would pull out of the deal and impose new sanctions on Iran.

The other powers vowed to continue with the agreement but last month Iran said it had exceeded the limit on the amount of low-enriched uranium it was allowed to hold under the terms of the deal.

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