DUBAI (.) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday warned of possible retaliatory measures against the United States if that country causes “problems” for its 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.
A flotilla of five tankers carrying Iranian fuel for Venezuela is approaching the Caribbean and the first ship would reach the waters of the South American country on Sunday, according to Eikon tracking data from Refinitiv.
“Iran will never start a conflict,” said Rouhani. “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.
(Editorial report Dubai. Translated by editorial Caracas, edited in Spanish by Gabriela Donoso)