Iran’s ambassador to Venezuela has denied media reports that the US has seized Venezuela-bound oil tankers belonging to the Islamic Republic.
In a post on his Twitter account, Hojjat Soltani described the allegation as a lie and another psychological war launched by the US propaganda machine against Iran.
Soltani stressed that the vessels seized by the US are not Iranian-flagged or owned by the country.
“The terrorist president of the US cannot make up for his defeat and humiliation against the great Iranian nation by using false propaganda,” he said.
The US has reportedly seized the cargo of four tankers it says was targeting for transporting Iranian fuel to Venezuela, US officials said Thursday.
A senior US official told The Associated Press that no military force was used in the seizures and that the ships weren’t physically confiscated. Rather, US officials threatened ship owners, insurers and captains with sanction to force them to hand over their cargo, which now becomes US property, the official said.
It is not clear where the vessels or their cargoes currently are.
Prosecutors alleged the four ships were transporting to Venezuela 1.1 million barrels of gasoline. But the tankers — the Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna — never arrived at the South American country and then went missing. Two of the ships later reappeared near Cape Verde, a second US official said.
As commercial traders increasingly shun Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has been increasingly turning to Iran.
In May, Maduro celebrated the arrival of five Iranian tankers delivering badly needed fuel to alleviate shortages that have led to days-long gas lines even in the capital, Caracas, which is normally spared such hardships.