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US engages in threats to stop Iran oil sales to traditional clients: Javad Zarif

File photo: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Dubai Aug 31, 2019, 11.01 PM (IST)

Iran's foreign minister accused the United States on Twitter on Saturday of engaging in "piracy and threats" to stop Tehran from selling oil to traditional clients, after Washington blacklisted an Iranian oil tanker that it said was headed to Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the United States had reliable information the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya, which the US Treasury Department has blacklisted, was headed to Syria.

"US engages in piracy & threats to prevent Iran from selling oil to traditional customers," Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. "Stop nagging @SecPompeo: We will sell oil to any & all buyers."

Since ditching the nuclear deal, calling it flawed to Iran's advantage, Trump has reimposed sanctions to strangle its vital oil trade and force Tehran to accept stricter limits on its nuclear activity, curb its ballistic missile programme and end its support for proxy forces around the Middle East.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged his people on Wednesday to unite to overcome Washington's "economic war" while his government said it would use diplomacy to try to solve the standoff even though it distrusted Trump.

Iranian tanker blacklisted

On Friday, the US Treasury Department blacklisted the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying Washington had reliable information the vessel was headed to Syria, an ally of Tehran.

The ship was detained by Britain off Gibraltar in July due to suspicions it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. It was released in mid-August after Iran gave assurances that its cargo was not destined for Syria.

Turkey said on Friday the ship was headed to Lebanese waters after changing course several times. Beirut said it was not informed of the plan, but Turkey's information suggested that a ship-to-ship transfer of cargo might be attempted once it nears the coast of Lebanon, which borders on Syria.

A senior Iranian military commander vowed that Iran would retaliate if any of its vessels was stopped in international waters, according to Fars news agency.

"Piracy against Iran can't be easily overlooked. It is natural for us to act when Iranian ships are stopped in any part of the world's waters. Iran's armed forces will certainly retaliate," Brigadier General Kiumars Heydari, the head of Iran's regular ground forces, told Fars.

Story highlights

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the United States had reliable information the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya, which the US Treasury Department has blacklisted, was headed to Syria.