Iran says South Korea is holding $ 7 billion fund hostage

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Tehran (AFP)

Iran on Tuesday accused South Korea of ​​holding $ 7 billion of its funds ‘hostage’, but stressed that Tehran’s seizure of a Korean tanker in Gulf waters was not a gesture for nothing .

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Monday sent speedboats to seize the Hankuk Chemi with 20 crew on board, accusing it of “violating the maritime environment law”.

South Korea demanded the release of the ship and dispatched its anti-piracy unit to the region.

“We are not hostage takers,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a press conference. “We are used to such allegations. But… it was the Korean government that took more than $ 7 billion of our people hostage for unfounded reasons ”.

He added that the seizure was based on a court order after the tanker “caused oil pollution in the Persian Gulf.” She had been warned beforehand and the request (for seizure) was of a technical nature ”.

South Korea will soon send a delegation to Iran to resolve the oil tanker situation “through bilateral negotiations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam said.

South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun will make a three-day trip to Tehran early next week, the spokesperson added.

The deputy minister’s visit was organized before the seizure, as Tehran demanded the release of billions of dollars held in Seoul due to US sanctions.

Rabiei said South Korea has refused to provide Iran with funds “even for goods which are not sanctioned” by the United States, noting that “the historical memory of our nation will not forget this” .

US President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew Washington from a landmark nuclear deal with world powers, then reimposed and stepped up crippling sanctions against Iran.

Iranian guards said the Korean ship was carrying 7,200 tons of “petroleum chemicals” after stopping at a Saudi port and was made up of personnel from South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. .

The incident was the first seizure of a large ship by the Iranian navy in more than a year.

In July 2019, guards seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the sensitive Strait of Hormuz for two months for allegedly ramming a fishing boat.

It was widely seen at the time as a response after authorities in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar arrested an Iranian tanker and then released him over US objections.

Tehran has denied that the two cases were linked.

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