The United States will spare Japan and 10 European Union nations from U.S. financial sanctions because they have significantly reduced purchases of Iranian crude oil, officials said Tuesday.
The decision is a victory for the 11 countries, whose banks need not fear being possibly cut off from the U.S. financial system under new U.S. sanctions designed to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.
The EU nations, which had already decided to cease importing Iranian crude, include Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters.
“The actions taken by these countries were not easy,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a prepared statement. “They had to rethink their energy needs at a critical time for the world economy and quickly begin to find alternatives to Iranian oil.”
She said the EU nations’ actions show “their solidarity and their commitment to holding Iran accountable for its failure to comply with its international obligations.”
She called Japan’s efforts “especially noteworthy considering the extraordinary energy and other challenges it has faced over the past year.”
Koji Sasahara / AP
An oil tanker is moored recently at an oil loading platform adjacent to an oil refinery in Kawasaki, west of Tokyo. Japan posted a record high trade deficit in January after its nuclear crisis shut down nearly all the nation's reactors for tougher checks, sending fuel imports surging.
Japan increased its dependence on fuel imports after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, knocked out most of its nuclear power-generating capabilities. Almost 9 percent of its crude imports came from Iran, according to published reports.
The State Department list did not include China and India, Iran's top two crude oil importers, nor U.S. allies South Korea and Turkey, which are among the top 10 consumers of Iranian oil.
A senior State Department official said 12 countries that import Iranian crude may eventually be subject to financial sanctions unless they significantly cut their purchases. The official did not name the countries, Reuters reported.
Under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, President Barack Obama has the ability to impose financial sanctions on foreign banks that carry out financial transactions with Iran's central bank ``for the purchase of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran'' if several conditions are met.
The United States has gradually tightened sanctions because of Iran's failure to answer questions about its nuclear program, which Washington and its allies suspect is a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says it is solely to generate power.
This article includes reporting by Reuters.
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