The Latest: Owner of Iran-held ship: Some crew to be freed

The Latest: Swedish owner of British-flagged tanker held by Iran confirms he was told some crew will be freed

TEHRAN, Iran -- The Latest on the Persian Gulf tensions (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

The owner of the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker held in the Persian Gulf by Iran says he was told by Iranian authorities that seven of the 23-member crew will be released.

Erik Hanell, CEO of the Swedish shipping group Stena Bulk that owns the ship, says it wasn't immediately clear when they would be freed.

His confirmation came shortly after Iran's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that seven crew members would be freed.

Hanell says "their ordeal may soon be over, and they may return to their families, however, we cautiously await official confirmation of their release date."

Hannell said in a statement it was "a positive step on the way to the release of all the remaining crew, which has always been our primary concern and focus."

The remaining 16 crew members are to stay onboard the vessel.


2:05 p.m.

Iran's foreign ministry is saying the country will release seven crew members of the seized British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker held in the Persian Gulf.

Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told state TV on Wednesday that judicial procedure on the oil tanker is ongoing and that under Iran's "humane policy," the captain of the ship has been asked to let some of the crew members return to their country.

Mousavi said the captain decided seven crew members who are Indian nationals would be the ones to leave.

Iran seized the tanker on July, saying it violated Iranian laws, after authorities in the British territory of Gibraltar seized an Iranian tanker said to be to be carrying fuel to Syria in violation of EU sanctions on oil sales to the government in Damascus. The Iranian vessel was released earlier this month.


10:40 a.m.

Iranian officials have ratcheted up pressure ahead of a weekend nuclear deadline for European nations to come up with a solution for Iran to sell its oil abroad in the aftermath of escalated U.S. sanctions.

President Hassan Rouhani reiterated a threat that Tehran would take additional steps away from the 2015 nuclear accord on Friday and accelerate its nuclear activities if Europe fails to provide a solution, calling it Iran's third, "most important step" away from the deal.

Rouhani said on Wednesday that "Iran's third step is of an extraordinarily significant nature" and added that a "decree will be announced today or tomorrow."

Both Rouhani and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi expressed doubts Europe would succeed in salvaging the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.