Eyeing Iran, US official says all alleged sanctions breaches taken seriously

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The United States takes all alleged sanctions violations seriously and will take action as appropriate, a State Department spokesman said on Friday, responding to a question about a tanker unloading Iranian fuel oil at a Chinese port.

Reuters on Thursday reported that a tanker carrying nearly 130,000 tons of Iranian fuel oil had unloaded its cargo into storage tanks near the Chinese city of Zhoushan.

“The United States takes all alleged sanctionable activities seriously and will take action as appropriate. We are committed
to enforcing our sanctions, especially those related to Iran’s oil and petrochemicals sectors,” a State Department spokesman said in an emailed response.

He said the department was aware of the specific report about the tanker but declined to comment on it.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has stepped up moves to choke off Iran’s oil exports by scrapping waivers it had granted to big buyers of the country’s crude oil, including China.

Refined products like fuel oil, mainly used to power ship engines and generate electricity, were not covered by the temporary waivers, granted on the sanctions reintroduced in November 2018.

Tensions have escalated in recent days, with growing concerns about a potential US-Iran conflict. Earlier this week the United States pulled some diplomatic staff from its embassy in Baghdad following weekend attacks on four oil tankers in the Gulf.

Trump believes the economic pressure will force Tehran to accept tougher curbs on its nuclear and missile programs and on its support for proxies in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. He has said publicly he wants to pursue diplomacy after quitting the deal and moving to cut all Iranian oil exports.