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Hong Kong Detains Ship Linked to Blacklisted Iranian Company

Hong Kong authorities have detained a container ship linked to an Iranian company that is under U.S. sanctions for alleged involvement in illicit arms shipments.

The vessel is linked to Iran's largest shipping company, Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, or IRISL. Hong Kong authorities seized control of the ship because of a dispute between its operators and several banks about loan payments.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper named the vessel as the Decretive, a Maltese-flagged container ship that it says was detained in the territory's waters on November 14.

The newspaper quotes unnamed sources as saying authorities seized the vessel at the request of four European banks who accuse its owners of defaulting on $268 million in loans.

The United States froze the assets of IRISL under U.S. jurisdiction in 2008, accusing it of transporting military cargo for Iran in defiance of international restrictions. Earlier this week, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed similar sanctions on a company that provides insurance to IRISL, Moallem Insurance.

U.S. officials say sanctions imposed on IRISL by Washington, the European Union and the United Nations have put the company under financial pressure and reduced the number of ports at which it can operate. IRISL denies it is facing financial difficulties.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.