Stait of Hormuz
Stait of Hormuz

U.S. defense officials say American Navy warships will no longer accompany U.S. and British-flagged commercial vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.
Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the order to accompany the vessels through the narrow strait along Iranian territorial waters expired Tuesday. Warships began accompanying the commercial ships last Thursday, two days after Iranian naval vessels detained a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and its crew.
The U.S. naval commander in the region "adjusts his mission based on his view of the conditions" and there had been "several days without incident," Warren said.
Iran says it intervened with the Maersk Tigris because the Maersk shipping line owes it money awarded in a lawsuit.
Maersk Line spokesman Michael Storgaard said Wednesday that the company had a "constructive dialogue with the Iranian courts'' and was working toward "the safe release of the crew and vessel.''
In Tehran, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the ship likely will be released in two days after a fine is paid.
Warren said U.S. warships remain in the area and will respond to any requests for assistance.
In 2011, Iran threatened that it might close the strait in retaliation for tougher international sanctions. That prompted a warning from Washington that U.S. forces would take action to keep shipping lanes open.
The Strait of Hormuz, between the shores of Iran and the United Arab Emirates, is one of the world's most strategically important choke points. About 20 percent of the world's oil supply travels through the strait.
The dispute comes at a critical time in Iran's relations with the West, as talks on Tehran's contested nuclear program continue and frictions rise amid a U.S.-backed campaign by a Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against Iranian-backed Shi'ite rebels in Yemen.

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