Venezuela’s Maduro Thanks Iran for Helping Oil Industry Overcome U.S. Sanctions

CARACAS, Aug 23 (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday thanked ally Iran for helping the South American country overcome U.S. sanctions on its oil industry and floated the idea of purchasing missiles from the country.

Washington maintains strict sanctions against Iran’s oil industry to try to halt the country’s nuclear program. Earlier this year, Tehran sent several gasoline cargoes to Venezuela to help it overcome fuel shortages, as well as equipment to help state oil company PDVSA repair its dilapidated refineries.

“We are helping each other,” Maduro said in an interview broadcast on state television. “I think the Iranian experience will help us reinforce our management capacity.”

He did not provide further details of how Iran was helping, noting he should maintain “silence since we are in a war.”

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Washington’s sanctions on PDVSA are meant to pressure Maduro, a socialist accused of rigging his 2018 re-election, to resign. Earlier this month, the United States seized four cargoes of Iranian gasoline en route to Venezuela.

The growing ties between Iran and Venezuela are concerning other countries in the region. Colombian President Ivan Duque said this week Maduro was eyeing missile purchases from Iran, which Venezuelan officials denied.

But in the interview, Maduro said Duque’s statement was a “good idea” he had not yet considered. “If it is possible and convenient, we will buy those missiles,” he said.

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(Reporting by Corina Pons in Caracas; writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)