Iran released a South Korean oil tanker, and its captain, Seoul's foreign ministry, said Friday, about three months after they were seized over alleged oil pollution.

Iran Press/Asia: The ship, with its captain and 12 other crew members aboard, left the Iranian port at around 6 a.m. (Iran time), the ministry said.

According to the report by the South Korean Yonhap News Agency, the crew members had been released earlier, but have remained on the ship for maintenance purposes.

The ministry said the captain and the crew members remain safe and sound.

Iran seized the Hankuk Chemi and its 20 crew members in its waters on Jan. 4, for the ship violated environmental rules.

Iran has said the seizure is purely a technical issue to be dealt with by judicial procedures.

Since February, the captain and a few crew members have stayed on the ship after the Iranian authorities announced they would set free all sailors except for the captain for the ship's management.

Iran agreed to free all of the ship’s 20 crew members except for the captain in February after a South Korean vice foreign minister visited Tehran.

The seizure came amid lingering tensions between Seoul and Tehran over the latter's money frozen at South Korean banks under U.S. sanctions.

Iran had urged the release of assets worth some US$7 billion frozen in two South Korean banks since September 2019, when Washington's sanctions waiver for South Korea's imports of Iranian oil expired.

Iran has said that the seizure took place due to technical issues and that the matter will be addressed in line with its judicial process. 

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