South Korea Blacklists Iran Financial Transactions

South Korea plans to ban all unauthorized financial transactions with Iran and blacklist 102 Iranian entities and two dozen individuals as part of sanctions over Tehran’s suspected nuclear program, a source said Wednesday.

South Korea is also expected to suspend operations of the Seoul branch of Iran’s Bank Mellat, which is accused of facilitating hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions for Iranian nuclear, missile and defense entities, the source said.

These measures will be formally announced later in the day, he said on condition of anonymity.

Other steps include strengthening inspections of cargoes related to Iran, putting the blacklisted entities and individuals on the travel ban list, and restricting investment in Iran’s gas and oil refinery industries, the source said.

The United States has demanded that Seoul adopt new sanctions on Iran in addition to UN-authorized measures to censure Tehran over its uranium enrichment program, which Washington says could be used for a possible nuclear weapons program. Iran says the program is for the sole purpose of atomic power generation.

Seoul is in a difficult position as Iran has warned that if sanctions are imposed, trade relations between the nations would be adversely affected. Iran is South Korea’s largest trading partner in the Middle East with two-way trade reaching nearly billion last year. South Korea imports about 10 percent of its crude from Iran.

The alliance with Washington, however, is the backbone of South Korea’s national security. Rejecting Washington’s demand could be seen as a slap in the face of an ally that has been working actively to support Seoul amid heightened tensions in the wake of North Korea’s sinking of a warship in March.

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