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MINISTERS must not sink to playing the roles of US President Donald Trump’s “sidekicks” or “messengers” over Iran, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon urged today after a British vessel was seized.
Oil tanker the Stena Impero was commandeered by Iranian forces while in Oman’s territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz last week, following Britain’s seizure of an Iranian oil tanker the week before.
Mr Burgon warned the British government against being “dragged” into a conflict with Tehran, warning that it could be more catastrophic than the Iraq war.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would unveil diplomatic and economic measures today in response to the Stena Imperto’s detention.
Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood, when asked if sanctions were off the table, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We are going to be looking at a series of options.”
Last month, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard fired at a US drone that entered its air space. Mr Trump threatened air strikes but later backtracked.
“What we don’t want to do is end up being the messengers or sidekicks of Donald Trump,” Mr Burgon told Sky.
He continued: “If we end up in a conflict backed by Donald Trump, then I think it would not only be comparable with Iraq, in fact it could be even worse than Iraq, and that should really scare everybody.
“We need sensible negotiations. We’ve got a really important part to play diplomatically in this. We can use our negotiating weight.
“I think that our government has international respect and this country has international respect in a way that Donald Trump doesn’t.
“I think we need to use that for the purposes of conflict resolution and for the purposes of making sure this doesn’t escalate out of control.”
Meanwhile, an audio recording has since emerged of radio communications between the Iranian authorities and HMS Montrose moments before the tanker was seized.
The Iranian vessel can be heard saying: “If you obey, you will be safe. Alter your course immediately. I want to inspect the ship for security reasons.”
HMS Montrose replied: “You must not impair, impede, obstruct or hamper the passage of the Stena Impero. Please confirm that you are not intending to violate international law by attempting to board.”
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