Several Asian countries are expressing an unwillingness to join the United States and Europe Union in blocking oil imports from Iran in order to pressure Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.
Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said his country cannot do without Iranian oil and will not be cutting its Iranian imports despite other countries' efforts to punish Tehran for its controversial nuclear activities.
Mukherjee was speaking during a visit to Chicago in the United States, which has led a Western effort to boycott Iranian oil in response to continuing concerns about Tehran's nuclear efforts and alleged rights abuses.
"You know Iran is an important supplier of petroleum crude," Mukherjee said. "We import around 105 million tons of crude per year. It is increasing. The last import last year was 105-106 million tons imported. Iran contributes substantially."
He acknowledged that countries like Saudi Arabia and Nigeria contribute as well, "But Iran contributes substantially and it is not possible for India to take any decision to reduce the import from Iran drastically."
India is the world's fourth-largest oil consumer. It gets 12 percent of its oil from Iran.
South Korean Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan said Seoul is talking to Washington about the sanctions, but that he expects such talks to "take quite a bit of time."
South Korea imports about 10 percent of its oil from Iran.
China, the biggest world customer for Iranian oil, has rejected calls for any new sanctions against Tehran.
Iran exports about 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, about 2 million of which go to Asian countries.
Washington is said to be urging countries in Asia to cut its imports in the wake of the United States' own embargo and a recent European Union pledge to halt oil imports from July.
The United States and EU also have declared freezes on the assets of Iran's central bank.
Such measures, Washington hopes, will put pressure on Iran to rein in its nuclear program.
The West suspects Iran of developing nuclear weapons, a charge Iran has long denied.
Compiled from Reuters reports
Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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