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Britain is to join forces with the US and other allies in a new international maritime security mission designed to keep the Gulf region safer for ships.

It will draw on assets already in the area to boost inter-state maritime cooperation in the Strait of Hormuz, the busiest narrow shipping passage in the world.

The news comes after increasing tension in the region, with the Royal Marines recently seizing an Iranian tanker carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions and Iranian boats apparently trying to take control of a British merchant vessel in retaliation.

It is hoped the new mission will improve coordination between the military and commercial shipping across the globe, with the UK also having offered to lead one of its Maritime Task Groups.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said: "Upholding international maritime law and freedom of passage is in all our interests. We look forward to working alongside the US and others to find an international solution to the problems in the Strait of Hormuz."

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