Exemptions from extra Iran sanctions sought

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Exemptions from extra Iran sanctions sought

Korea will soon ask the United States to grant an exemption from new U.S. sanctions against Iran that could affect its crude oil imports from the Islamic country, an official said yesterday.

Joining a fresh U.S.-led multinational effort to place more pressure on Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons development program, the country announced new economic sanctions against Iran last month, but avoided measures that could halt crude oil imports.

Imports of crude oil from Iran, which made up 9.6 percent of Korea’s total demand last year, are a matter of grave concern for Seoul. Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that imposes tough sanctions against financial institutions dealing with Iran’s central bank. However, the U.S. law can grant a waiver for institutions in a country that significantly cuts its transactions with Iran.

“As President Obama signed the bill into law, our government officials will visit the U.S. at an appropriate time to have consultations with the U.S. administration over it,” an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on condition of anonymity.

The official did not say when Korea would send its officials to the U.S.

The issue will be one of the topics reviewed when Washington’s top diplomat on Asia visits Seoul this week, the official added.

Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Asian and Pacific affairs, will arrive in Seoul tomorrow for talks that are expected to focus on the situation on the Korean Peninsula following the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

A ban on imports of Iranian crude oil risks disrupting the South’s economy, which imports all of its oil. Iranian crude oil accounted for 8.3 percent of total imports by Korea in 2010, but the ratio rose to 9.6 percent in the first 10 months of last year.


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