Britain is reportedly sending a second warship to the Gulf after an Iranian cleric warned Britain would be “slapped in the face” for seizing its oil supertanker.
A cleric is said to have warned Iran’s establishment would soon hit back at the UK as tensions mount over Royal Marines’ capture of the ship, suspected of breaching EU sanctions by ferrying oil to Syria.
Oil prices hovered near six-week highs as three Iranian vessels tried to block a BP oil tanker on Thursday, before backing off after they were intercepted by the Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose frigate.
Tensions are escalating between the West and Iran over a series of incidents in recent weeks, including explosions on board two other oil tankers that were blamed by the US on Iran.
The deployment of the HMS Duncan to the Gulf has been sped up as hostilities with Iran have grown, with the ship setting off in the next few days, Sky News reports.
Iranian TV reports cleric Kazem Sedighi told worshippers during a prayer sermon in Tehran, “Iran's strong establishment will soon slap Britain in the face for daring to seize the Iranian oil tanker."
The Iranian regime has previously called the seizure an illegal act of piracy, demanding its immediate release. Iran said it has “never hesitated in responding to bullies.”
Oil prices have spiked several times over the past month as investors have reacted to each flare-up, with fears growing over the impact on global supplies and prices.
A tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico and growing hostilities in the Middle East pushed oil upwards on Friday.
Brent crude futures (BZ=F), the international benchmark, were up 0.4% to $66.75 a barrel shortly before midday in London.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures were up 0.1% to $60.27.
Prices had peaked higher in early trading before a new International Energy Agency forecast of a global oil surplus in months to come dragged down gains.