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U.S. urges Korea to press on Iran sanctions

The United States urged South Korea to press on Iran sanctions during a meeting of senior financial officials from the two countries Friday, a Seoul official said.

Undersecretary David Cohen of the U.S. Treasury Department met Deputy Minister Choi Jong-ku of the South Korean Finance Ministry at the ministry building in Gwacheon, south of Seoul.

The United States, along with the International Atomic Energy Agency, has accused Iran of seeking to acquire low-enriched uranium that can be used to make nuclear weapons.

During the meeting, Cohen emphasized the importance of continued implementation of international sanctions aimed at Iran’s nuclear program and asked South Korea to support the international efforts.

“It (Cohen’s visit) was aimed at encouraging Seoul to prevent Iran from accessing the international financial system to facilitate its illicit nuclear and weapons program,” a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

Cohen oversees Treasury Department operations on terrorism and financial intelligence. Last September, Korea joined the European Union and Japan in imposing sanctions against Iran, of which a core part calls for all Korean individuals, businesses and other entities to get prior approval from the Bank of Korea when conducting financial transactions with Iranian banks.

Those entities include the Bank Mellat Seoul office, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.

Bank Mellat has asked Korean regulators to take the company off a list of institutions whose transactions must be approved by the central bank.

News reports had it that the Iranian bank may close its Seoul branch if Korea doesn’t help it normalize operations.



By Cynthia J. Kim (cynthiak@heraldcorp.com)
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