Iran says ships seized in Singapore freed
Three Iranian ships impounded in Singapore have been freed, Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari said on Wednesday, blaming "Westerners" for creating the problems that led to the seizures.
"Minutes ago, the Iranian ships, which were seized in Singapore because of the financial problems created by the Westerners have been released after the problems were resolved," Ghazanfari told Fars news agency.
He did not offer further details.
Singaporean authorities had impounded three Iranian-owned ships for auction after their owners failed to repay a loan from a French bank, according to media reports on December 9, citing court documents.
The German-registered vessels "Tochal," "Sahand" and "Sabalan" were listed as being under "sheriff's sale" on the Singapore high court's website.
Sheriff's sales are public auctions carried out on goods and property seized from owners who default on debts.
The plaintiff was identified as French lender, Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank.
The ships were anchored off Singapore's southern coast in a holding anchorage pending the auction.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines' chairman Mohammad Dajmar was quoted by Tehran's state-owned Press TV news network last month as saying the ships' seizure "was not because of debt".
"We had a loan and the (bank) changed it from a loan to a due (payment) because of (UN) sanctions. In other words, they committed a violation. Because the loan contract was signed before the sanctions," Dajmar said.
"We are trying to prevent the auctioning.... We are negotiating to pay them (the bank) ourselves and resolve the issue," he said in remarks carried on the network's website.
Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the sensitive process which can be used to make nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the core of an atom bomb.
The Islamic republic rejects claims by the West and Israel that its uranium enrichment programme masks a covert bid to acquire nuclear weapons, maintaining that it is developing nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes.
© 2011 AFP