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Irked by sanctions, Chavez threatens to curb oil sales to US

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, May 25 -- Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, irked by new sanctions imposed by Washington on state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA, said the firm may not be able to guarantee all future shipments of oil to the US.

“The true impact of this new gringo aggression will be to strengthen the nationalist and patriotic morale of Venezuela,” said Chavez who has often threatened to cut off supplies of his country’s oil to the US.

Chavez’s remarks came after the US yesterday imposed economic sanctions on PDVSA and six other foreign companies for working with Iran’s energy industry in ways that might bolster the country’s illicit nuclear program (OGJ Online, May 25, 2011).

"This is an aggression against Venezuela and against OPEC," said Venezuela’s Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez. “They are trying to sanction Venezuela for our profound cooperation with a founding member of OPEC,” Ramirez said, referring to Iran.

For now, Ramirez said, Venezuela won’t cut its oil dispatches to the US of 1.2 million b/d, but it reserves the right to stop sending oil to some US firms in the future.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates-based Royal Oyster Group, one of the companies facing US sanctions for trade with Iran, denied it was involved in importing fuel into Iran.

"We think this is unfair," said one company executive. "We knew there is no problem of exporting out of Iran, but there is problem in importing and we were on the export side."

"We were taking some base oils and bringing them to places like Oman, India, and the UAE," he said.

Israel's Ofer Bros. Group, another of the companies to be hit with US sanctions for trade with Iran, said it had “never sold ships to Iran” and claimed support for its position from the Israeli government.

The US says Ofer Bros., along with Tanker Pacific of Singapore, sold a tanker valued at $8.65 million to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).

"We believe that Tanker Pacific and Ofer Bros. Group failed to exercise due diligence and did not heed publicly available and easily obtainable information that would have indicated that they were dealing with IRISL," the US Department of State said.

"The Sec. [of State Hillary Clinton] will hold companies accountable, as required by the Iran Sanctions Act, when they know or 'should have known' they were providing sanctionable goods or services to Iran," it added.

In addition to PDVSA, Ofer Bros., and Tanker Pacific, three other firms were named by the US as trading with Iran despite the ban: PCCI, Speedy Ship, and Associated Shipbroking of Monaco.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.


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