"I will put it very, very clearly on the record that this government will be doing absolutely nothing to facilitate in any way, the passage of any Iranian flagships carrying petroleum products to Venezuela", he said.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani warned of retaliatory measures against the U.S. if Washington caused problems for tankers. "Today, the first ship with gasoline arrives for our people".
The Venezuelan oil sector is now facing a crisis amid sanctions imposed on the country by the Trump administration, leading to fuel shortages in the South American nation. Maduro's forces had infiltrated the group long before the operation and allowed it to proceed, then capturing and killing them in the process, and accusing opposition president Guaido of bankrolling the incursion, giving Washington any...
Tehran has warned Washington that the Trump administration will "face retaliation" if the Iranian fleet en route to Venezuela is challenged. But a Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said on Thursday he was not aware of any operations related to the Iranian cargoes.
"If our tankers in the Caribbean or anywhere in the world face any problems caused by the Americans, they will face problems as well", he added.
"We have always had the legitimate right to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity and to serve our national interests, and we hope that the Americans will not make a mistake". No official announcements from the president's office on intentions to act against the tanker have emerged. However, the Trump administration has increased pressure on Maduro, recently offered a $15 million bounty for his arrest after a US court indicted him as a narcotrafficker.
Maduro holds on to power with support from Venezuela's military and his global allies, also including Cuba, Russia, and China.
"We will not abide by their support of the illegitimate and tyrannical regime of Nicolas Maduro", the Trump administration said in a statement, citing its "maximum pressure" campaign against the socialist leader.
Iran's foreign ministry has said any attempt by the U.S.to stop them will be met with "a swift and decisive response". Such an act could too easily escalate, he said, especially in the Persian Gulf where Iran could retaliate against US ships.
The nation's defense minister had pledged that the military would escort the tankers once they reached Venezuela's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) due to what authorities described as threats from the United States. Earlier this month reports said Venezuela sent a huge quantity of gold to Iran, in what might have been a payment for the gasoline shipment.