US team arrives in S. Korea for talks over Iran


SEOUL — A U.S. delegation arrived in South Korea Monday for talks on implementing new sanctions against Iran’s oil exports, amid mounting concerns over Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons drive, a report said. The delegation led by Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, will stay for three days in South Korea, a significant importer of Iranian crude. Einhorn will meet deputy foreign minister Kim Jae Shin on Tuesday. He is accompanied by Daniel Glaser, the U.S. Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, Yonhap News Agency said. Highly industrialized South Korea, which imports all its crude, is a close ally of the United States and 28,500 U.S. troops are based in the country. But in the first 11 months of last year, it imported 9.6 percent of its total crude needs — 8.16 million barrels — from Iran. New U.S. legislation signed by President Barack Obama last month targeted Iran’s central bank, which processes most of its oil sales.

The legislation will effectively make foreign firms choose between doing business with the Islamic republic or the United States. But the bill gives Obama some wiggle room, allowing him to grant 120-day waivers for institutions in a country that significantly cuts its other transactions with Iran. Seoul foreign ministry officials have said South Korea will ask for a temporary exemption from restricting crude imports in return for significantly reducing other transactions. Seoul last month added more than 100 names to a financial blacklist of Iranian firms and individuals. In a move to minimize fallout from the U.S. sanctions, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang Sik is now on a tour of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Japan and China are also stepping up their diplomacy as they seek ways to limit the impact of the U.S. legislation and diversify from Iranian oil.