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Hopeless US warns governments against aiding Iran fuel shipments to Venezuela

The United States has warned foreign governments, shipping firms, seaports, and insurers of stiff sanctions if they assist Iranian tankers with supplying fuel to crisis-hit Venezuela.

US Special Representative on Venezuela Elliott Abrams told Reuters on Friday that demarches had been sent privately to governments “around the world” regarding Iran’s shipment of fuel to Venezuela. 

“We’ve alerted the shipping community around the world, ship owners, ship captains, ship insurers, and we’ve alerted ports along the way between Iran and Venezuela,” he said.

Abrams noted that the US pressure campaign against Tehran and Caracas was being waged “to be sure everyone recognizes this would be a very dangerous transaction to assist.”

Iran has sent five tankers loaded with 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate to Venezuela to help jump start the oil refineries in the South American country amid a fuel crisis.

Four of the vessels — Fortune, Forest, Petunia and Faxon — have already reached Venezuela under military escort.

The fifth tanker, Clavel, is also en route to the Latin American state in defiance of US threats of “measures” against the shipments and draconian American sanctions targeting both Iran and Venezuela.

According to Refinitiv Eikon tracking data, two other tankers, the Liberia-flagged Greek-owned Bella and Bering, passed through the Suez Canal in early May. They are reportedly loaded with Iranian oil products.

Meanwhile, an informed person said Gibraltar was among the governments that received the US warning on Iran’s gasoline export to Venezuela.

A US official, whose name was not mentioned, said various countries had been asked to deny port services to Venezuela-bound Iranian tankers.

Citing the sanctions risk, Abrams said, “I do not think that you will find ship owners and insurers and captains and crews willing to engage in these transactions in the future.”

Earlier this month, a US official said that President Donald Trump’s administration was considering responses to Iran’s fuel supply to Venezuela, prompting Tehran to warn of retaliatory measures if Washington causes any problem for the tankers.

Hojatollah Soltani, Tehran’s envoy to Caracas, stressed that Iran and Venezuela said no to the US on behalf of the whole world by ignoring the American bans and engaging in free trade.

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