South Korea’s imports of Iranian crude drop amid sanctions

Bloomberg – By Sangim Han: South Korea’s crude imports from Iran fell 24 percent in June from a year earlier amid Western pressure to cut shipments from the Persian Gulf nation.

The world’s fifth-largest oil importer purchased 736,552 metric tons of oil, or about 24,551 tons a day, from Iran last month, compared with 971,908 tons, or about 32,397 tons a day, a year earlier, according to data on the website of South Korea’s Customs Service. Iran accounted for 6.9 percent of the total crude imports in June, the data showed. Purchases slid 21 percent to 4.8 million tons in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2011.

South Korea won a renewable, 180-day exemption from U.S. financial sanctions on its banks after it demonstrated it had “significantly reduced” its purchases of Iranian oil, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an e-mailed statement on June 28. The East Asian country failed to get an exemption from European Union rules that entered into full force on July 1. The sanctions are targeted at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

The EU embargo includes a ban on the insurance of tankers carrying Iranian crude. The restrictions apply to 95 percent of the world’s tankers because they’re covered by the 13 members of the London-based International Group of P&I Clubs.

Iran has offered to use its own tankers to supply oil, a South Korean government official said June 29, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. The government is still discussing how to deal with the EU sanctions and Iran’s proposal, the official said.

The U.S. and its allies maintain that Iran’s nuclear activities are a cover for making weapons. The government in Tehran says the program is for civilian uses.

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