Iran frees South Korean oil tanker it held amid dispute over funds

Iran frees South Korean ship it held amid dispute over funds
FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2021, file photo released by Tasnim News Agency, a seized South Korean-flagged tanker is escorted by Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats on the Persian Gulf.
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Daily US Times: A South Korean oil tanker held for months by Iran amid a dispute over billions of dollars seized by South Korea was freed and sailed away early Friday. Tehran released the ship just hours ahead of further talks between Iran and world powers over its tattered nuclear deal.

The MT Hankuk Chemi leaving Bandar Abbas in the early morning hours, according to MarineTraffic.com data.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Iran released the ship and its captain after seizing the vessel in January. The ministry says that after completing an administrative process, the Hankuk Chemi left an Iranian port at around 6 a.m. local time.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, later confirmed that Iran had released the vessel.

Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency: “At the request of the owner and the Korean government, the order to release the ship was issued by the prosecutor.”

The ship’s owner, DM Shipping Co. Ltd. of Busan, South Korea, did not make any comment yet.

The Hankuk Chemi had been traveling from a petrochemicals facility in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when armed Revolutionary Guard troops stormed the South Korean oil tanker in January and forced the ship to change course and travel to Iran.

Iran had accused the tanker of polluting the waters in the crucial Strait of Hormuz. But the seizure was widely seen as an attempt to pressure South Korea to release billions of dollars in Iranian assets tied up in South Korean banks amid heavy American sanctions on Tehran.

In February, Iran released the 20-member crew, but continued to detain the tanker and its captain while demanding that Seoul a unlock frozen Iranian assets.

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