Middle East

Maersk Tigris: Iran says ship seized over legal dispute

File photographs show the Maersk Tigris Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Maersk Tigris was seized in one of world's busiest oil shipping lanes (file image)

The detention of a Danish cargo ship by the Iranian navy is linked to a long-running legal dispute, Iran's foreign minister has said.

Javad Zarif said that the Maersk shipping company, which charters the vessel, had been ordered by an Iranian court to pay damages to a private firm.

The Maersk Tigris was seized in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday with 24 crew on board.

The United States has sent a military vessel to monitor the situation.

Maersk said the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel was in an international shipping lane when it was detained.

But Iranian authorities noted that it had been in the country's waters.

Speaking in New York, Mr Zarif said Iran respected the rights to freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

"The Persian Gulf is our lifeline," he added.

He dismissed speculation that the move was linked to the ongoing conflict in Yemen, where the US has deployed an aircraft carrier group.

The crew of the ship are mostly from Eastern Europe and Asia, with one British national on board. Maersk said they were safe and "in good spirits".

A spokesman for the Danish foreign ministry told AFP it was "following the situation closely" and had been in contact with Maersk.

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