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Seoul to impose more sanctions on Iran soon

(Yonhap News)
(Yonhap News)
The South Korean government is expected to announce additional sanctions against Iran this week, apparently pressured by the U.S. to join its toughened stance against Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, a source said.

A diplomatic source said related ministries were in final consultations about sanctions likely to be drawn up this week.

Potential sanctions mentioned include banning imports of Iran-made petrochemical products, worth $300 million, it said.

The U.S. House of Representatives is to vote this week on a bill that seeks punitive measures against any country or company that helps the Iranian energy sector develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

The U.S. Senate on Dec. 1 unanimously approved a bill that bans foreign banks doing business with Iran’s central bank from having correspondent bank accounts in the U.S., after a six-month grace period.

If enacted, Korean companies could find it difficult to pay for oil imports from Iran. Korea imports about 9 percent of its crude from Iran, the world’s fourth-largest crude oil exporter.

Robert Einhorn, the U.S. State Department’s special adviser on arms control, had called on Seoul to take additional steps to pressure Tehran during his stay in Korea on Dec. 5.

He said the U.S. wants to discourage other countries from importing Iran’s crude oil but “does not want to interfere with energy security needs.”

Last month, the U.S. and several other countries announced additional sanctions against Iran which limit Iran’s oil and petrochemical industries and the financial industry, after the IAEA said Iran’s uranium enrichment program may have a military purpose.

Seoul has maintained sanctions against Iran’s finance, trade, transportation and energy sectors since Sept. 8, 2010, in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929. The existing sanctions call for Korea to make payments in won, not in dollars.

Leaders of the European Union on Friday warned Iran in a statement that the bloc would impose new sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program next month, but did not specify details.

By Kim Yoon-mi
(yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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