DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian navy vessels came to the assistance of a disabled foreign oil tanker in the Gulf that needed repairs, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the semi-official news agency ISNA.
"(Spokesman) Abbas Mousavi said... that an international oil tanker was in trouble due to a technical fault in the Persian Gulf... After receiving a request for assistance, Iranian forces approached it and used a tugboat to pull it towards Iranian waters for the necessary repairs to be carried out," ISNA said.
Mousavi did not name the tanker and said more information would be released later.
A CNN reporter tweeted earlier that U.S. intelligence increasingly believed that the UAE tanker MT Riah had been forced into Iranian waters by Iran's Revolutionary Guards naval forces. But the reporter added that other Gulf sources said it had simply broken down and may have been towed by Iranian vessels.
Iran has called on Britain to release immediately an Iranian oil tanker that was seized by British Royal Marines earlier in July on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Tuesday that Iran would respond to Britain's "piracy" over the seizure of the Iranian tanker in Gibraltar.
Refinitiv data showed that the last signal received from MT Riah was on July 14 and that it was in the Strait of Hormuz off the Iranian island of Qeshm. According to the data, the ship's manager is UAE-based Prime Tankers.
Reuters contacted Prime Tankers which said it had sold the tanker to another UAE-based company, Mouj al Bahar. An employee at Mouj al Bahar told Reuters that the firm did not own it but had been managing the vessel up to two months ago and that it was now under the management of KRB Petrochem. Reuters could not reach KRB Petrochem for comment.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Ghaida Ghantous and Alex Cornwell; Editing by Gareth Jones and Cynthia Osterman)