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World

Iran captures two Greek tankers amid row over US oil grab

The United States had confiscated the Iranian oil cargo held onboard few days ago

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Iranian forces seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, shortly after Tehran warned it would take "punitive action" against Athens over the confiscation of Iranian oil by the United States from a tanker held off the Greek coast.

"The Revolutionary Guards Navy today seized two Greek tankers for violations in Gulf waters," said a Guards statement, quoted by Iranian state news agency IRNA. It gave no further details and did not say what the alleged violations were.

Greece's foreign ministry said an Iranian navy helicopter landed on Greek flagged vessel Delta Poseidon, which was sailing in international waters, 22 nautical miles from the Iranian shore, and took the crew hostage, among them two Greek citizens.

It said a similar incident took place on another Greek-flagged vessel near Iran, without naming the ship, adding both actions violated international law and Greece had informed its allies, as well as complained to Iran's ambassador in Athens.

Greece-based Delta Tankers, which operates the Delta Poseidon, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Greek authorities last month impounded the Iranian-flagged Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, near the coast of the southern island of Evia due to European Union sanctions.

The United States later confiscated the Iranian oil cargo held onboard and plans to send it to the United States on another vessel, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The Pegas was later released, but the seizure inflamed tensions at a delicate time, with Iran and world powers seeking to revive a nuclear deal that Washington abandoned under former President Donald Trump in favour of returning sanctions on Iran.

Earlier on Friday, Nour News, which is affiliated to an Iranian state security body, said on Twitter: "Following the seizure of an Iranian tanker by the Greek government and the transfer of its oil to the Americans, #Iran has decided to take punitive action against #Greece."

It did not say what kind of action Iran would take.

The Pegas was among five vessels designated by Washington on Feb. 22 - two days before Russia's invasion of Ukraine - for sanctions against Promsvyazbank, a bank viewed as critical to Russia's defence sector.

It was unclear whether the cargo was impounded because it was Iranian oil or due to the sanctions on the tanker over its Russian links. Iran and Russia face separate U.S. sanctions.

NUCLEAR TALKS

A maritime security source said the other tanker seized on Friday was the Greek-flagged Prudent Warrior. Its operator, Greece-based shipping firm Polembros, told Reuters there had been "an incident" with one of its ships, without elaborating, adding it was "making every effort to resolve the issue."

U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which monitors Iran-related tanker traffic through ship and satellite tracking, said Prudent Warrior was carrying a cargo of Qatari and Iraqi oil, while the Delta Poseidon was loaded with Iraqi oil.

Each vessel was carrying approximately one million barrels, it said.

"This should have direct implications on the JCPOA (Iran nuclear) negotiations and further stalling any chances of reviving a deal," Claire Jungman, chief of staff at UANI, told Reuters.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain said it was aware of the reported seizures and was looking into them.

Also on Friday, Iran summoned an envoy of Switzerland, which represents U.S. interests in Tehran, to protest against the Pegas oil seizure, the Iranian foreign ministry said.

"The Islamic Republic expressed its deep concern over the U.S. government's continued violation of international laws and international maritime conventions," state media quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the oil seizure.

IRNA quoted Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization as saying the tanker had sought refuge along the Greek coast after experiencing technical problems and poor weather. It called the seizure of its cargo was "a clear example of piracy".

SOURCE: REUTERS

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on what it described as a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money laundering network for Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force.

In 2019, Iran seized a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Both vessels were later released.

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World

Israeli forces shoot and kill Palestinian teen in West Bank: health ministry

The death raises to five the number of Palestinian teenagers killed during Israeli military operations in the West Bank in a month

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The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces shot and killed a teenager during an operation in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

The ministry identified the slain teen Zaid Ghunaim, 15. It said he was wounded by Israeli gunfire in the neck and back and doctors failed to save his life.

The death raises to five the number of Palestinian teenagers killed during Israeli military operations in the West Bank in a month. Israeli-Palestinian violence has intensified in recent weeks with near-daily arrest raids in Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank and tensions around a Jerusalem holy site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, cited witnesses as saying Ghunaim came upon the soldiers in al-Khader and tried to ran away but the troops fired at him. Online videos purportedly of the aftermath of the shooting show bloodstains near a white car parked in a passageway.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, which has stepped up its operations in the West Bank in response to a series of deadly attacks inside Israel.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israeli forces “deliberately” shot at Ghunaim with the intention to kill him.

On Sunday, Israeli ultranationalists plan to march through the main Muslim thoroughfare of the Old City of Jerusalem. The compound houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The hilltop site is also the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

The march is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a step that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

SOURCE: AP NEWS

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Pakistan

PM Shehbaz announces Rs28 billion relief package for masses

The premier says the nation was dragged into economic swamp by the previous government

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Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan Mian Shehbaz Sharif has announced Rs28 relief package for the people of Pakistan, saying the package will counter rising inflation in the country.

Addressing the nation in a televised address, he said the package would be in addition to the Benazir Income Support Programme, adding the relief package would be included in the annual budget.

The prime minister said the move to increase fuel prices was necessary to avoid Pakistan from facing bankruptcy, adding the previous government neither bought fuel not got the power plants repaired.

He announced Rs2,000 to 14 million poor families across the country, saying these families comprise 85 million people. 

He said the 10-kg floor bag would be available at utility stores in Rs400, adding 

Discussing the foreign conspiracy against [PTI government], he said the National Security Committee and the US had termed the news of conspiracy as baseless.

"Even our Ambassadior to the US had rejected the story of conspiracy," the premier said.

PM Shehbaz said a diplomatic cable was used for political means and the nation was fed with lies despite the National Security Committee (NSC) and the ambassador to the United States both rubbishing the "foreign conspiracy" claims touted by ex-premier Imran Khan.

PM Shehbaz said if Khan thinks his "ego" is bigger than the state, then it is his misconception as Pakistan will function in line with the Constitution and not upon following the direction of one person.

Reminding the PTI government of its tenure, PM Shehbaz said it was Khan that struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), not the current government.

He said that over the last four years, Pakistan incurred more than $20,000 billion worth of debt, which was more than 80% of the total loans taken during the history of the country.

The prime minister said the incumbent government was ready to take tough decisions for moving the country towards progress in a bid to end the politics of "incompetency and corruption".

He added that when the new government came into power, inflation was skyrocketing, industries were shutting down, and the US dollar — which was at Rs115 — had reached Rs189.

  

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