Lebanon denies it is destination of Iranian oil tanker Grace 1

Ship closely monitored by US changed its listed destination to Turkish port of Iskenderun on Friday

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 18, 2019 an Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. An Iranian tanker released after being detained for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar is now headed for Lebanon, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on August 30, 2019. / AFP / Johnny BUGEJA
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Lebanon on Friday denied Turkey's claim that an Iranian oil tanker that the US is seeking to seize was heading to one of its ports.

The Grace 1, carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude, listed its destination as the Turkish port of Iskenderun on Friday as it sailed north towards Turkey, according to the shipping website marinetraffic.com. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was heading to Lebanon, adding that Turkey was monitoring the vessel's progress "very closely".

"We still buy gas from Iran, but we don't buy oil," Mr Cavusoglu said.

The position of the Grace 1 oil tanker at 12pm GMT on Friday, August 30, 2019 and its forecast route according to marinetraffic.com.

The tanker was detained for six weeks in Gibraltar on suspicion that its cargo of crude was being delivered to Syria, in violation of EU sanctions against the Syrian government. A court in the British territory ordered the tanker's release on August 15 despite a last-minute legal bid by the United States to have it detained.

The ship set sail on August 18 under a new name, Adrian Darya 1, and the US warned that any country providing facilities to the vessel would face punitive action.

Lebanese officials said they had no knowledge of the Grace 1 being bound for Lebanon.

"We have not been informed of the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya heading [here]," Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters.

Minister of Energy and Water Nada Boustani tweeted: "The Ministry of Energy does not buy crude oil from any country and Lebanon does not have a crude oil refinery. Also, there has been no request for the entry of tanker Adrian Darya to Lebanon."

The ship had listed its destination as Kalamata in Greece after leaving Gibraltar but changed it to the Turkish port of Mersin on August 23 after Greek authorities said they would not provide it with any services. The Grace 1 changed course on Tuesday, a day after Iran said it had found a buyer for its cargo with naming them.

On Thursday, it abruptly changed course again, making almost a U-turn away from the Turkish coast, according to marinetraffic.com, before reversing the manoeuvre west of Cyprus on Friday morning and listing Iskenderun as its destination.

The US says the tanker is linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which it designated as a terrorist organisation earlier this year.

President Donald Trump's administration has re-imposed stringent sanctions on Tehran since withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal last year and is seeking to completely cut off its revenues from oil exports. Mr Trump wants to renegotiate the accord with Iran to include restrictions on its missile development and support for armed proxies in the region, in addition to the limits imposed on its nuclear programme under the 2015 deal.