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Israel warned this month that its navy could take action against Iran, which it said was smuggling oil using clandestine measures similar to those employed during the previous round of sanctions.

In so doing, this nation responded to a threat issued last week by Tel Aviv that it could act against what it calls Iranian oil smuggling to evade USA sanctions.

Iran has resorted to floating storage again after the US sanctions have removed more than 1 million bpd of Iranian oil exports from the market since November.

The defense minister also noted that Israeli actions would be seen as "piracy" if the navy acted against Iran, according to the IRNA news agency.

Hatami told IRNA on Wednesday that this action is considered "banditry" and a threat against global security and Iran will respond to it firmly. Those sanctions have already halved Iranian oil exports.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's armed forces are definitely capable of defending the country's shipping routes in case of any threat", he asserted.

"Oil spills and accidents involving tankers are extremely costly".

'We decided, to showcase a part of Iranian defensive and technological advances on the 40th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution in order to confront the shop-worn strategy of enemies, ' Brigadier General Amir Hatami said at a meeting with senior directors of Iran's Defense Ministry.

Shipping sources tell Reuters that this time around it will be more hard for Iran to procure ships than it was with the previous round of sanctions due to increased scrutiny and because businesses don't want to be involved in anything linked to Iran for fear of running afoul of the US sanctions.

For example, last year, one of Iran's tankers sank near China after a collision with another vessel.

Besides China, India and Japan, Washington also gave South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece the green light to keep buying Iranian oil, although it's unclear whether these waivers will be renewed when they expire in May.

Renewed U.S. sanctions have also meant Iran has been unable to secure vital certification services from foreign providers to ensure its ships remain seaworthy, shipping officials said.

In November, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook described Iran's tanker sector as a "floating liability", saying the US sanctions would bar them from worldwide insurance markets, making them a risk for ports and canals which allow them access.

"Countries, ports, and canal operators, and private firms should know they will be likely responsible for the cost of an accident involving a self-insured Iranian tanker", he added.

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