Tanzania is seriously investigating allegations that it re-flagged Iranian oil tankers in defiance of sanctions.

An Iranian oil tanker - archive shot, 2004

A US congressman alleged last week that up to 10 Iranian oil tankers had been re-registered in Tanzania.

But the East African nation’s foreign minister said so far there was no evidence to suggest this was true and he appealed for help with the probe.

The US and the European Union have just tightened sanctions on Iran over concerns about its nuclear programme.

On Sunday, a complete European Union oil embargo on Iran came into effect – in response to US legislation, which sanctions any entity that deals with Iran’s Central Bank.

Tanzania’s neighbour Kenya on Wednesday said it had cancelled plans to import crude oil from Iran following threats of sanctions.

Flags of convenience

Howard Berman, who chairs the US House of Representative’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, wrote to President Jakaya Kikwete last Fridayabout his concerns that Tanzania had allowed National Iranian Tanker Company vessels to re-flag.