TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday Britain would face "consequences" over the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker.
Iran has demanded the immediate release of the Grace 1, which British Royal Marines boarded off Gibraltar last week and seized, claiming that it was breaking sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
"You (Britain) are the initiator of insecurity and you will realize the consequences later," Rouhani said after a cabinet meeting.
"Now you are so hopeless that, when one of your tankers wants to move in the region, you have to bring your frigates (to escort it) because you are scared. Then why do you commit such acts (seizure)? You should instead allow navigation to be safe," Rouhani said.
Tehran has called the move an act of "piracy” and denied that the destination was Syria. Iranian officials argued that EU sanctions could apply only to the bloc’s members, not Iran.
Iran Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif stated that the shipment should not be of concern to the British.
"Iran is neither a member of the EU nor subject to any European oil embargo. Last I checked, EU was against extraterritoriality," Zarif tweeted, calling the seizure "piracy, pure and simple."
"It sets a dangerous precedent and must end now," his tweet read.
In strongly worded comments on Wednesday, Rouhani said what Britain did was "very cheap, wrong and a mistake”. It will be "to your loss”, he added, saying the British operation came after an order from hawks in the Trump administration and U.S. regional allies.
Calling the tanker's seizure an act of maritime piracy, Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier-General Amir Hatami said it "will not be tolerated by us and will not go without a response."
The secretary of Iran's Expediency Council, a key advisory and arbitration body, warned that if Britain failed to release the tanker Iran would be forced to take tit-for-tat action.
"If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, the relevant authorities will be duty-bound to take reciprocal action and seize a British oil tanker," said council secretary Mohsen Rezai.
Media in Tehran have urged the government to retaliate by stopping British oil tankers from operating in the strategic waters of the Strait of Hormuz, rather than summoning the British ambassador to Tehran.
The comments by the Iranian president came after the top U.S. military commander said the Pentagon was talking to a number of countries about putting together a naval task force to "ensure freedom of navigation” in waters close to Iran and Yemen.
Rouhani also said Iran's decision to increase uranium enrichment would produce fuel for power plants and serve other peaceful aims, and that it was within the framework of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
He was speaking a day after European powers accused Iran of "pursuing activities inconsistent with its commitments" under the nuclear deal and called for an urgent meeting of the parties to the agreement.
"You (Europeans) do not need to worry about Iran, your concern must be over the United States, which has violated this whole commitment and undermined international obligations," Rouhani said.
Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China and Iran are the remaining parties to the deal, which the United States abandoned last year.