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A fleet of five tankers carrying Iranian fuel to the crisis-torn South America country is approaching the Caribbean and the first is expected to cross into Venezuelan waters tomorrow. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned of retaliatory measures against the US if Washington caused problems for tankers.
If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face trouble caused by the Americans, the US will also be in trouble
He said: “If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face trouble caused by the Americans, the US will also be in trouble.
“Iran will never initiate a conflict. We have always the legitimate right to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity and to serve our national interests, and we hope that the Americans will not commit an error.”
Iran is supplying about 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and alkylate to Venezuela.
The shipments have caused a diplomatic standoff between Iran, Venezuela and Washington as both nations are under US sanctions.
US officials said Washington was considering measures in response to the shipments, which the administration believes are being paid with gold.
Venezuela’s defence minister said the military will escort the tankers once they reach the nation’s exclusive economic zone.
Iran-flagged tanker Fortune, the first in the flotilla, was approaching the Caribbean Sea.
It has been navigating with its satellite signal on since it passed the Suez Canal earlier this month.
The four other vessels are following the same route across the Atlantic Ocean.
The OPEC-member country desperately needs fuel to feed up to 1,800 gasoline stations that have been partially closed for weeks due to insufficient supply from state-run PDVSA’s refineries, which until March worked at about 10 percent of their joint capacity of 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd).
Venezuela was consuming 170,000 bpd of gasoline before coronavirus-related lockdown measures.
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Fuel sales at stations declined to about 40,000 bpd due to rationing, according to independent calculations.
Over a decade of mismanagement and lack of staff combined with US sanctions that since 2019 have limited imports have left the refineries in poor condition.
Shipments of equipment in flights by Iran’s Mahar Air have arrived in Venezuela in recent weeks to start repair work.
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