Iran denies US claim it's helping Venezuela oil sector

Tehran (AFP) –


Iran on Friday rejected US claims it is helping Venezuela to rebuild its oil industry, saying the accusations are designed to increase pressure and disrupt the two countries' trade ties.

Elliott Abrams, the envoy leading US efforts to topple Venezuela's leftist leader Nicolas Maduro, has alleged that the cash-strapped country is paying Iran in gold to restore the troubled sector.

US President Donald Trump's administration has imposed unilateral sanctions aimed at ending oil exports from Iran and Venezuela, both major crude producers.

Iran's foreign ministry in a statement called Abrams' claims "baseless", without directly addressing accusations that the Islamic republic is being paid in gold.

It accused Washington of trying to increase "pressure on Venezuela's government and disrupt trade between Iran and Venezuela."

It said US policies against Venezuela including "economic sanctions, military threats and a recent transition council" had failed.

Washington was now "trying to create obstacles in Venezuela's plan to rebuild its refineries and produce oil products such as petrol, which is in short supply due to cruel US sanctions."

Venezuela has the world's largest proven oil reserves but analysts say that the sector operates below capacity.

The country's economy has been collapsing, with millions fleeing as they lack basic goods.

Iran has also taken a hit from US sanctions after Trump pulled out of a nuclear accord and reimposed them in 2018.

Maduro has withstood more than a year of US-led efforts to remove him and retains the support of the military.

Iran has repeatedly expressed support for Maduro against opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognised by some 60 nations as interim president due to reports of irregularities in Maduro's 2018 re-election.