Iran's use of its military forces to conduct an armed boarding of a commercial vessel in worldwide waters constitutes a blatant violation of global law that undermines freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce. He stressed that the ships actually seized have nothing to do with Iran and its help for Venezuela in the form of fuel shipments.
"We call on Iran to articulate to the worldwide community the legal basis for its actions", the group said in a statement.
In a tweet, Iran's Ambassador to Venezuela Hojat Soltani rejected as "fake news" the USA claim of seizing the four tankers.
The owners of the four vessels agreed to have the fuel transferred to other vessels so it could be shipped to the United States, a US government source said on Thursday.
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USA prosecutors filed a lawsuit in July to seize the gasoline aboard the four tankers, and a judge subsequently issued a warrant for seizure. But the tankers never arrived at the South American country and then went missing.
The four tankers that initially carried the cargoes were the Liberia-flagged Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna.
Two of the ships just seized, the Bering and the Bella, were previously intimidated into canceling their shipments to Venezuela in the aftermath of the flotilla.
The Justice Department credited the success to the US government but also the assistance of foreign partners in seizing the property.
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"After enforcement of the U.S. forfeiture order, Iran's navy forcibly boarded an unrelated ship in an apparent attempt to recover the seized petroleum, but was unsuccessful", according to U.S. Central Command, which posted a video on Thursday of what the U.S.is calling a failed Iranian operation.
"Neither are the vessels Iranian, nor have their owners or flags anything to do with Iran", the ambassador stressed. So far, Iranian state media has not reported on the incident.
The US has accused Iranian businessman Mahmoud Madanipour, who allegedly had links to the Revolutionary Guards, of arranging oil shipments for Venezuela using offshore front companies and ship-to-ship transfers to get around sanctions on Iran. Their impact along with an economic crisis has crippled Venezuela's ability to refine extremely heavy blend of oil extracted from its oilfields into gasoline, leading to countrywide shortages.
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The action represents the USA government's largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran, the DOJ said.