Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Saturday of retaliatory measures to be taken against the United States if Washington causes problems with Iranian oil tankers bringing fuel to Venezuela, the semi-official news agency Mehr reported.
“If our oil tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world have problems caused by Americans, they will be in trouble,” Rouhani said in a telephone conversation with the Emir of Qatar, Mehr said.
The flotilla of five oil tankers that bring fuel to Venezuela is approaching the Caribbean. Venezuelan state television said on Saturday that the first of them was due to arrive in the country’s waters at 7 pm local time (8 pm Brasília time).
TankerTrackers.com, a service that tracks freight and oil storage, has estimated that the first flotilla vessel, the Fortune, will arrive in the exclusive Venezuelan economic zone between 10 pm and midnight, Brasília time.
“Iran will never start a conflict,” said Rouhani. “We hope that the Americans do not make a mistake.”
The freighters are transporting 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylation to Venezuela, according to both governments, sources and calculations made by TankerTrackers.com, based on the vessel’s cargo levels.
The shipments caused a diplomatic stalemate between Iran, Venezuela and the United States, which have economic sanctions imposed on both. Washington is considering response measures, according to an American official.
The United States recently increased its naval presence in the Caribbean due to an alleged anti-drug operation. A Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said on Thursday that he was not aware of any action related to Iranian oil tankers.
Venezuela’s defense minister said the national navy will escort the ships as soon as they reach the Venezuelan economic zone.
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