Iran to 'reconsider' ties if S. Korea cuts oil imports

Iran's Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi (C) talks to journalists before a meeting of OPEC oil ministers at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna. (REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader)

TEHRAN: Iran will reconsider its ties with South Korea if the Asian nation halts imports of Iranian oil from Sunday, as Seoul has said it will be forced to do because of EU sanctions.

"If South Korea completely cuts its oil imports from the Islamic Republic of Iran, then in return we will reconsider our relations with this country," Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said on Thursday, according to the official IRNA news agency.

"Iran is one of the major importers of Korean products. And in the eventuality that the policy of sanctioning Iranian oil is implemented, then that nation will suffer," he said.

South Korea said on Tuesday it would be forced to stop importing Iranian oil from July 1 because the EU would from that date stop offering any type of insurance on such shipments.

The ministry of knowledge economy said discussions with EU ministers on Monday yielded no indication that South Korea would be exempted from the sanctions as it had requested.

From Sunday, European firms that insure 90 percent of the world's tankers will be required to cease providing coverage for ships carrying Iranian oil anywhere in the world. South Korea relies entirely on European companies for such insurance.

Last year, South Korea bought 9.4 percent, or about 87.2 million barrels, of its crude needs from Iran. It has already reduced purchases to win a waiver from separate US sanctions, which came into effect on Thursday.

The ministry said it would work hard to secure alternative sources of crude to minimise the effect on the country's economy. It said shipments from Iraq and elsewhere had already increased.

Iran is South Korea's third-largest trade market in the Middle East.

Exports to Iran were up 32 percent from a year earlier to $6.07 billion in 2011. They were worth $2.9 billion in the first five months of this year, a 40 percent rise from a year earlier.





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