A Russian tanker was intercepted in the Gulf on Thursday on suspicion of smuggling Iraqi oil in defiance of U.N. sanctions, a U.S. admiral said. The Akademik Pustovoyt was boarded in the southern Gulf by a team of Americans who took oil samples for analysis to see if the fuel was from Iraq, said Vice Admiral Charles Moore
. He coordinates an international force patrolling the area and commands the U.S. Navy's Manama, Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.
The force from 18 countries that patrols the Gulf to catch smugglers of Iraqi oil had boarded the ship four times in the past couple of months, but it had not been detained previously "for a variety of reasons," Moore said.
U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iraqi crude oil is sold in exchange for necessities under a closely supervised U.N. "oil-for-food" program. Moore has previously said that ships smuggling Iraqi oil travel through Iranian-controlled waters in the Gulf with the knowledge of Iran water patrols. Higher oil prices have sharply increased smuggling and Iraq could
make up to $1 billion this year on gasoil smuggled by water and land. Moore had addressed the U.N. Security Council last month on smuggling and advocated diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to stop letting offenders use its territorial waters.