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Iranian Grain Vessels Stranded In Brazil Over U.S. Sanctions Free To Leave

The Iranian ship Bavand is seen anchored in the port of Paranagua, Brazil.

Two Iranian grain vessels that have been stranded for weeks off the Brazilian coast are being allowed to sail away, officials said on July 27 following a court order.

The vessels were stranded in early June after Petroleo Brasileiro, Brazil's state oil company, refused to sell them bunker fuel for fear that it would violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.

A spokeswoman for the union of harbor pilots, Sinprapar, told Reuters that the fueling of both the ships had begun early on July 27.

The Bavand was expected to soon depart for Iran with a load of corn, followed by the Termeh, which would head to the port of Imbituba to also be loaded with corn for export.

On July 26, Chief Executive Roberto Castello Branco told Reuters that the oil company, also known as Petrobras, would obey a Brazilian Supreme Court order to refuel the Iranian ships.

The Supreme Court order came after Iran's ambassador was quoted by Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency as saying that Tehran could suspend imports from Brazil if the situation dragged on.

Iran is the biggest importer of Brazilian corn and fifth-largest importer of meat and soybeans.

Petrobras had said the Iranian vessels and the Iranian company that owns them were sanctioned by Washington.

The United States last year withdrew from a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposed sanctions after the U.S. administration said the deal would enable Tehran to produce a nuclear weapon in a few years. The sanctions have devastated the Iranian economy.

"If Petrobras were to supply these vessels, it would be subject to the risk of being included in the same list, which could cause serious damages to the company," the oil company said in an earlier statement.

The law firm representing Eleva – the company that hired the Iranian vessels -- said Petrobras cannot be sanctioned because it was invoiced by Eleva, a Brazilian company that is not on any U.S. sanctions list.

Washington did not immediately comment on potential sanctions on Petrobras following the Supreme Court ruling.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has sought close ties with the United States and President Donald Trump.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Bloomberg, and Reuters
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