LONDON -- Britain mobilized a diplomatic broadside -- but no immediate military action -- against Iran on Saturday in retaliation for its seizure of the Stena Impero, a British-flagged tanker, in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran's top diplomat in London was summoned to the foreign office, while British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt expressed "his extreme disappointment" in a phone call to Mohammad Javad Zarif, his Iranian counterpart.
British ships were also warned to temporarily avoid the strategic Middle East waterway and top government officials were looking for ways to stem the rising tensions while branding Iran's seizure of the British-flagged vessel an "illegal act."
"We are looking for ways to deescalate the situation," Hunt said. "But we are also very clear that we will do what it takes to ensure the safety and security of British and international shipping."
For the second time in 24 hours, the British government convened an emergency session to discuss the seizure of the tanker in Omani waters "in clear contravention of international law," Hunt said. "This is totally and utterly unacceptable."
He said parliament would be updated Monday about any further measures that will be taken but he said the threat level has already been raised to the highest level.
Only last Saturday, Hunt said Iranian officials had reassured him that they wanted to deescalate tensions following the British detention of the Grace 1, an Iranian-affiliated ship, off the coast of Gibraltar.
The vessel was believed to have been carrying crude oil destined for Syria, in violation of EU sanctions.
"This has (to) be about actions not words if we are to find a way through," Hunt wrote on Twitter. "British shipping must & will be protected."
Hunt said that, following his conversation with Zarif, and from reading other reports, it was now clear to him that Iran saw Friday's seizure of the Stena Impero as a "tit for tat situation."
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Hunt added.