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Iranian tanker approaches Venezuelan waters, despite US warning


File photo. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. September 26, 2019. REUTERS / Brendan Mcdermid
File photo. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. September 26, 2019. REUTERS / Brendan Mcdermid

By Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen

DUBAI / CARACAS (Reuters) – The first of five Iranian tankers transporting fuel for Venezuela, suffering from a severe shortage of gasoline, was approaching the waters of the South American country on Saturday, despite the US warning that the shipment violated international sanctions.

After 4:51 pm local time (2051 GMT), the ship named Fortune passed north of the neighboring nation of Trinidad and Tobago, data from Refinitiv Eikon showed.

Venezuelan state television, VTV, reported that the Iranian tanker would arrive in the waters of the South American country at 19:00 local time (2300 GMT) and showed images of a Navy frigate and an airplane preparing to receive it.

Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino assured that his country will escort Iranian tankers in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). [nL1N2D22EW]

“We WELCOME the ships of the Islamic Republic of Iran that are about to arrive at the ports of our Homeland,” wrote the Vice President of Economy of Venezuela and the Minister of Petroleum, Tareck El Aissami, in his account on the social network Twitter.

The Iranian flotilla transports around 1.53 million barrels of fuel and alkylate to Venezuela, according to both governments, the sources and calculations made by TankerTrackers.com based on the draft levels of the ships. [nL1N2D41I2]

The shipments have caused a diplomatic showdown between Iran, Venezuela and the United States. The first two countries are under sanctions from Washington, which is considering measures in response, according to a senior US official, who did not elaborate on the options being evaluated.

The United States recently reinforced its naval presence in the Caribbean in what it said was part of the expansion of its anti-drug operations. But Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on Thursday that he was unaware of any operations related to the Iranian shipments. [nL8N2CW7L3]

“We continue to say that Iran and Venezuela, both isolated in the international order, (are) clearly violating international sanctions with this transaction,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned of possible retaliatory measures against the United States if Washington causes “problems” for tankers transporting Iranian gasoline to Venezuela, the semi-official Mehr agency reported.

“If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face problems caused by the Americans, they (the United States) will also be in trouble,” Rouhani said in a phone conversation with the emir of Qatar, Mehr reported.

(Writing report Dubai, Deisy Buitrago in Caracas and Luc Cohen in New York. Additional report by Marianna Párraga in Mexico City. Edited in Spanish by Gabriela Donoso / Marion Giraldo)



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