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(LEAD) Iranian funds locked in S. Korea will not be released until Iran returns to compliance: Blinken

All News 07:31 March 11, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional information, background from 7th para; ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, March 10 (Yonhap) -- The United States will not ease any of its sanctions on Iran, including the release of Iranian funds blocked in South Korea, until Iran first complies with its obligations under its nuclear deal, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

"As we've said, if Iran comes back into compliance, with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, we would do the same thing that would involve, if it came to that, if Iran made good on its obligations, sanctions relief pursuant to the agreement," the top U.S. diplomat told the House Foreign Relations Committee.

"But unless and until Iran comes back into compliance, they won't be getting that relief and the report you referred to is simply incorrect," he added when asked by a lawmaker.

The captured image from the website of U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs shows Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifying in a hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on March 10, 2021. (Yonhap)

South Korea earlier said it may release about US$1 billion of Iranian money held in South Korean banks after first consulting with the United States and if the U.S. agrees to it.

Blinken flatly dismissed any plans to release Iranian funds, saying, "We are not," when asked why the funds were being released.

About $7 billion in Iranian funds are currently frozen in South Korean banks.

Seoul agreed to release part of the money to a Swiss bank account to be used for humanitarian purposes but only if the U.S. agreed to such an arrangement.

Such an agreement came after Tehran seized a South Korean tanker, along with crew members, in an apparent attempt to pressure South Korea to release its money, which mostly consists of South Korean payments made for oil purchased from Iran.

The Iranian money has been frozen since shortly after the U.S. quit the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in May 2018.

Since coming into office in January, the Biden administration has been urging Iran to comply with its obligations under the nuclear deal, saying the U.S. too will return to the agreement following Iran's compliance.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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