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Tehran (TT– Presidential chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi said on Wednesday that the tankers seized by the United States and the cargo they were carrying did not belong to Iran.

“These tankers do not belong to Iran. Anyway, oil is being sold and purchased in international waters. About the issue that the oil may have belonged to Iran, we do not follow the oil that we sell and receive its money,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting.

“The tankers were not Iran-flagged and others have purchased their cargo,” he noted.

U.S. officials claimed on August 13 that the Trump administration has seized the cargo of four tankers which was targeting for transporting Iranian fuel to Venezuela, The Associated Press reported.

A senior U.S. official told AP that no military force was used in the seizures and that the ships weren’t physically confiscated. Rather, U.S. officials threatened ship owners, insurers, and captains with sanction to force them to hand over their cargo, which now becomes U.S. property, the official said.

An informed Iranian source told Nour News that no Iranian tanker has been seized.

Related: US Navy Sails Near Venezuela Coast in Provocation Against Iran Cargo Ships

“As it has been announced several times, the Islamic Republic of Iran will respond to any hostile action that limits its legal rights, and so far has not permitted any country to take such actions,” the source said.

Iranian Ambassador to Venezuela Hojat Soltani tweeted on August 14, “Another lie and psychological warfare by the United States’ imperialism propaganda machine. The tankers are neither Iranians, nor their owners or flags have anything to do with Iran. The terrorist Trump cannot make up for his humiliation and defeat towards the great Iranian nation through fake propaganda.”

U.S. prosecutors filed a lawsuit in July to seize four tankers sailing towards Venezuela with gasoline supplied by Iran.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was followed by a warrant issued by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg for the seizure of the more than 1.1 million barrels of gasoline in the four vessels, Reuters reported.

Legal sources said the gasoline could likely only be seized by U.S. authorities if the tankers enter U.S. territorial waters.

In the civil-forfeiture complaint, U.S. federal prosecutors aim to stop the delivery of Iranian gasoline aboard the Liberia-flagged Bella, Bering, Pandi, and Luna, according to the lawsuit, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Related: Erdogan Says Venezuelan Gold Will be Processed in Turkey

Boasberg issued the warrant for the seizure of the gasoline in the tankers based on probable cause that the fuel is forfeitable, the Justice Department said.

The lawsuit also aims to stop the flow of revenues from oil sales to Iran.

Five Iranian oil tankers by the names of Petunia, Forest, Faxon, Clavel, and Fortune carried fuel to Venezuela despite the United States’ sanctions. The last of them entered Venezuelan waters on June 1.

The tankers carried 1,520,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel to Venezuela. There was also a team of Iranian engineers and specialists from the oil industry on board heading for the country.

This post was originally written for and published by Tehran Times and appears here with permission.

Image: Wikimedia CommonsTasnim News

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