Iranian President Hassan Rohani on Saturday warned of possible retaliatory measures against the United States if Washington causes "problems" for its tankers transporting Iranian gasoline to Venezuela, the semi-official Mehr agency reported.
A fleet of five tankers that transport Iranian fuel to Venezuela, Burdened by scarcity due to the deterioration of its refining circuit, it is approaching the Caribbean, according to monitoring data from Eikon de Refinitiv. "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, "Rohani said in a phone conversation with the emir of Qatar, Mehr reported.
Venezuela's state television channel VTV reported Saturday that the first ship would arrive in the country's waters at 7:00 p.m. local time (2300 GMT). The official channel showed images of some Venezuelan Navy boats at sea waiting for the Iranian tankers. He did not specify the location of the ships.
TankerTrakers.com, a service that tracks oil shipments and storage, estimated that the first ship in the flotilla, Fortune, would arrive in Venezuela's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. local time (0100-03.00 GMT), according to time and speed calculations.
"Iran will never start a conflict," said Rohani. "We always have the legitimate right to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity and to serve our national interests," he added.
Iran is supplying around 1.53 million barrels of fuel to Venezuela, according to both governments, sources and calculations made by TankerTrackers.com based on the draft levels of the ships.
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 involving the Iranian shipments.
Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino assured that his country will escort Iranian tankers in its exclusive economic zone.
Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf last year after British forces detained an Iranian oil tanker. Both ships were released after a dispute that lasted for months.
Juan Guaidó, recognized as the president in charge of Venezuela for more than fifty countries, led by the United States, assured that Caracas pays for Iran's oil supplies with gold illegally mined in the vast mining areas in the south of the country.
"They are paying for that gasoline with blood gold"Guaidó said in a videoconference organized by Inter-American Dialogue, a reflection center based in Washington.
Venezuela's ties with Iran have been reinforced with the shipment of crude oil, which the parliamentary chief considered "cause for alarm" for the region given the "strategic" position of the South American country. "We are very concerned about the security of Venezuela and Latin America due to this attempt of Iranian presence on Venezuelan soil not authorized by the national Parliament", the only legitimate power and controlled by the opposition, said Guaidó.
The opponent, who said he was "constantly monitoring" the ships, also counted "17 flights" from "Mahan Air, an (Iranian) airline sanctioned for transporting weapons, to the Las Piedras airport, where one of the main refineries of Venezuela ”. The trips were reportedly made between April 22 and May 8.
With information from Reuters
MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC:
Maduro left all Venezuela without gasoline: now he wants to sell the refineries to Iran in order to import it
Maduro welcomed the shipment to Venezuela of Iranian regime oil tankers despite tensions with Washington