S Korea extends sanctions on Iran

S Korea extends sanctions on Iran

SEOUL - Reuters
S Korea extends sanctions on Iran

This file photo shows the Bushehr nuclear power plant, outside the city of Bushehr in Iran. The US government is increasing the pressure on the Islamic republic. AP photo

South Korea on Friday imposed new sanctions on Iran, banning fresh investment in its oil and gas sectors and blacklisting additional Iranian firms and staff, although its moves appeared to fall short of demands from Washington.
South Korea’s finance ministry said it would keep bank accounts held by the Iranian central bank in Seoul open so as not to distrupt crude oil supply from the Gulf nation that supplies almost 10 percent of its oil needs.

Legislation passed by the House and Senate in Washington this week sought to force countries to close the accounts or risk being cut off from the U.S. financial system .

“We will add 99 groups and six personnel regarding the Iranian nuclear program development,” a statement from the finance ministry said.

Last year, South Korea blacklisted the Seoul branch of Bank Mellat and 101 other Iranian companies, but allowed Iran’s central bank to open accounts denominated in Korean won for oil payments.
Iran has not been able to repatriate the fund which are now estimated to hold up to $5 billion of oil money.

According to latest industry data from the Korea International Trade Association, South Korea imported oil and other products worth $10.87 billion between October of 2010 and October 2011 and had exports worh $6.14 billion.

South Korea backed down from an earlier plan to ban Iranian petrochemical imports.
“We plan to suggest to domestic firms that they take cautious measures in their petrochemical product purchases,” the ministry said.