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Iran warns US against seizing its tanker as tensions flare in Persian Gulf

Highlights

Iran says US demand to seize tanker ‘illegal’

Gibraltar rejects US request to detain vessel

Houthi drone attacked Saudi oil facility on Saturday

Dubai — Iran cautioned the US against seizing its tanker Grace 1, which has been renamed Adrian Darya-1 and set sail from Gibraltar after more than a month of detention amid continued rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region.

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Foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi on Monday warned the US against any action and called Washington's demand to detain the VLCC "illegal," according to state-run news agency IRNA.

Adrian Darya-1 was released on Sunday after being seized on July 4 by Gibraltar with the help of the Royal Marines on suspicion of carrying oil to sanction hit-Syria. Iran denied the allegations and demanded the ship be released.

The government of Gibraltar on Sunday rejected a US request to seize the tanker, which was carrying 2.1 million barrels of light crude.

Tensions in the Persian Gulf region have been high since May, when tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman and Saudi oil infrastructure was targeted by armed drones launched by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. On July 19, Iranian forces detained the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian state television quoted Mousavi as saying the release of the tanker and the continued detention of Stena Impero were unrelated.

"From the beginning, we announced that there is no particular relation between these two ships," the foreign ministry spokesman said. "For the release of the violator, the British ship, we should wait for the court decision. It has had two, three maritime violations, which are being investigated and examined. We hope that those investigations are carried out as quickly as possible."

SAUDI ATTACK

On Saturday, a Houthi explosive-laden drone struck a Saudi processing unit in Shaybah -- an oil field that can produce 1 million b/d -- but did not affect production or exports, Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said in a statement published in the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

"Though oil production there has not been affected, this nonetheless puts the spotlight once again on the supply risks in the Middle East," analysts at Commerzbank said in a note on Monday.

Among other attacks on Saudi oil assets, a key Saudi Aramco oil pipeline that transports oil from the oil-rich eastern region was targeted in May. The 1,200-km East-West pipeline, also known as Petroline, was temporarily shut without affecting exports or production, Falih said at the time.

The attack on Petroline raised fears about the security of Saudi Arabia's oil assets, but all attacks on its energy infrastructure have so far largely not affected production or exports.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's top producer and the world's biggest oil exporter, reined in its crude output to 9.7 million b/d in July, a 134,000 b/d fall from June, according to secondary sources quoted in OPEC's monthly report.

The kingdom, which declared its intent to "lead by example" on the cuts, reported an even greater fall to 9.58 million b/d -- 730,000 b/d below its quota of 10.31 million b/d. It is the lowest volume it has pumped since March 2014, and is a counter-cyclical drop, as Saudi production typically rises in summer as it burns more crude for power generation to meet air-conditioning demand.

Click here to for full-size map

Saudi Arabia's key eastern oil fields

--Dania Saadi, dania.el.saadi@spglobal.com

--Aresu Eqbali, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Edited by Claudia Carpenter, claudia.carpenter@spglobal.com