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Iran says it will retaliate if it has U.S. “problem” over oil tankers destined for Venezuela

The President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, warned on Saturday (23) about retaliatory measures to be taken against the United States if Washington causes problems with Iranian oil tankers that carry fuel to Venezuela, reported the semi-official news agency Mehr.

“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 reported.

The flotilla of five tankers carrying fuel to Venezuela is approaching the Caribbean. Venezuelan state television reported on Saturday that the first of them is expected to reach the country’s waters at 7 p.m. local time (8 p.m. Pdt).

The TankerTrackers.com, a service that tracks freight and oil storage, has calculated that the flotilla’s first vessel, Fortune, will arrive in the exclusive Venezuelan economic zone between 10 p.m. and midnight, Brasilia time.

“Iran will never start a conflict,” Rouhani said. “We hope the Americans don’t 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 the TankerTrackers.com, based on the cargo levels of the vessels.

The shipments have caused a diplomatic standoff between Iran, Venezuela and the U.S., which have economic sanctions imposed on both. Washington is considering response measures, according to a U.S. official.

The U.S. has 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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