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S. Korea mulls halt to Iranian oil imports: source

All Headlines 04:56 December 09, 2011

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government is considering a drastic cut or suspension of crude oil imports from Iran to join efforts by the U.S. and other allies to toughen sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation accused of developing a uranium-based nuclear program, an informed diplomatic source here said Thursday.

Imposing bilateral sanctions on Iran is "shaping up as an obligation as a responsible member of the international community, not a matter of choice," the source said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitiveness of the issue.

"Cutting crude oil imports is an option," the source said, adding Saudi Arabia can be an alternative source of imports. South Korea imports about 9 percent of its crude oil from Iran.

South Korea has come under growing pressure to reduce its trade with Iran as its top ally, the U.S., is fast moving to shrink Teheran's oil exports and block its cash source for weapons development.

Last week, the Senate unanimously passed a bill aimed at crippling Iran's oil exports. The bill, which is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives as well, bans foreign financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank of Iran, which is a key channel for Teheran's oil exports.

"The U.S. has such a powerful financial tool," the source said. "Furthermore, it is hard for South Korea, which keeps requesting international sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear development, to say Iran's nuclear development is a different matter."

lcd@yna.co.kr

leechidong@gmail.com
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