Tehran — Iran on Monday warned of a "firm response" if the US takes action against its oil tankers as five Iranian vessels are heading for Venezuela.
Both countries' oil sectors are under strict US sanctions.
"Free trade between independent countries is legitimate," Abbas Mousavi, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, said in his weekly briefing. "In case of any action from the US, it will face Iran's firm response."
Five Iranian clean tankers are currently en route to the Latin American country, according to shipping sources.
The five tankers -- Faxon, Fortune, Petunia, Clavel and Forest -- are carrying a total of 210,000 mt of gasoline, data from ship tracking service Platts cFlow showed. Three of these tankers are currently sailing in the North Atlantic while two of them are in the west Mediterranean, according to cFlow.
Last week, the US government said the global maritime, energy and metals industries should be on guard for "illicit shipping" schemes that expose them to sanctions risks, particularly with trades involving Iran, North Korea and Syria.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday said the US was making "provocative threats a type of piracy and great menace to international peace and security." In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Zarif stressed Iran had the right to take necessary measures against the threats.
Iran's deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi conveyed the message by summoning Swiss ambassador Markus Leitner who is in charge of US interests in Iran. Araghchi pointed to "legal" trade ties with Venezuela and said "US bullying is a threat to freedom of shipping, international trading and free current of energy."
He said consequences of Iran's "instant and firm" response to any risk for Iranian oil tankers will be on the US.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei on Saturday said Iran would not stop selling its oil.
"We have trade exchanges with any country. We give some goods and we receive some goods. This is no one's business in the world. And they even spread rumors. We are two independent governments and we have exchanges of various goods. We will not sit on our hands either and we must sell our oil," Rabiei was quoted as saying by official news agency IRNA.