South Korea imposes independent sanctions on Iran

South Korea said today it will ban unauthorised financial dealings with Iran and impose other penalties as part of a US-led campaign.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA // South Korea said today it will ban unauthorised financial dealings with Iran and impose other penalties as part of a US-led campaign to enforce sanctions against the country over its disputed nuclear enrichment programme. Seoul targeted 102 entities, including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, and 24 individuals for the sanctions, a foreign ministry spokesman, Kim Young-sun, said.

The measures prohibit unauthorised foreign exchange transactions with the targets of the measures, halt existing banking relations, and prohibit the opening of new branches or representative offices in South Korea, Kim said. The individuals are also banned from entering South Korea, Mr Kim said. South Korea will also heavily penalise the Seoul branch of Bank Mellat, one of the 15 targeted Iranian banks, for violating laws on foreign exchange transactions, a government statement said, without elaborating.

The Seoul branch of Bank Mellat has "facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions for Iranian nuclear, missile and defence entities," the statement said. Mr Kim said the sanctions further reinforce United Nations resolution 1929 against Iran, the latest in a series of measures taken by the international community in an effort to halt Iran's nuclear programme. "South Korea expects Iran to join international efforts for nuclear non-proliferation and take steps to faithfully implement its obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions," he said.

The UN approved a fourth round of sanctions against Iran in early June over accusations that it is seeking to develop atomic weapons. Iran denies its nuclear programme is militaristic in nature and says it has a right to conduct uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. The US also independently imposed new sanctions against Iran and has urged other countries to follow suit. So far, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Japan have joined the international campaign against Iran.

Seoul has been cautious in taking action against Iran, trying to balance its diplomatic interests with the US, a key ally, and its economic interests with Iran. Iran is South Korea's third-largest trading partner in the Middle East, with two-way trade totaling nearly US$10billion (Dh36.7bn) last year, according to the Korea International Trade Association. It is also South Korea's fourth-biggest supplier of crude oil, accounting for 9.8 per cent of its oil imports, according to the Korea National Oil Corp.

Seoul said it will prohibit new investments and contracts that could enrich Iran's petroleum and gas industry, and called on South Korean companies to exercise "restraint and caution" in carrying out existing contracts. * AP