S. Korea briefed Iran in advance on oil embargo waiver: source

SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Yonhap) -- A team of South Korean officials visited Tehran on the weekend, just before the U.S. announcement of waivers on its Iranian oil embargo, and offered a detailed briefing on Seoul's related agreement with Washington, a diplomatic source here said Tuesday.

The move reflects South Korea's resolve to maintain relatively good relations with Iran despite the revival of U.S. sanctions on the Middle Eastern country's energy and financial sectors.

The delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs Yun Kang-hyeon, met with Iranian officials on Saturday and explained the content and background of the waiver deal in detail, according to the source.

Yun's counterpart is Abbas Araqchi, deputy foreign minister for political affairs.

Iranian officials expressed their gratitude for South Korea's prior consultations on the sensitive issue, the source said.

Seoul has tried to cooperate with Washington on its efforts to tighten the screws on Tehran for its nuclear program. Simultaneously, South Korea is eager to maintain trade and other ties with Iran "with maximum flexibility."

Under the latest deal with the U.S., announced on Monday, South Korea will be allowed to import a limited amount of oil from Iran. Seven other nations -- China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, Turkey and Taiwan -- have been granted waivers as well.

It would enable South Korean refiners to continue the purchase of Iranian condensate, which is ultralight oil used for various petrochemical products.

In addition, the two sides will restart the won-based settlement of bilateral trade transactions via the Central Bank of Iran (CBI)'s accounts at two South Korean banks: Woori Bank and the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK).

"It's expected to provide South Korean firms with more opportunities for the trade of non-sanctions items such as medical products, processed food and home appliances, although the exports of some products including steel and automobile parts will be affected by the sanctions," the source said.

Yun also requested that Iran pay its outstanding bill for South Korean exporters and local officials responded "positively," the source added.

Iran reportedly owes around US$200 million to dozens of South Korean companies.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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