WASHINGTON - Singapore is in talks with the United States to get an exemption from economic sanctions on Iran's oil trade, even as the US added seven economies to the list of nations qualifying for the exemption.
A Singapore Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, in response to media queries on the issue, said: 'Singapore and the US are having constructive discussions on the import of Iranian crude oil and for an exception to the sanctions.'
In the past two years, only 1 per cent of Singapore's total crude oil imports was from Iran, and last month, no Iranian crude oil was imported.
The sanctions are aimed at pressurising Iran's leaders to abandon any nuclear weapons ambitions.
'While Singapore enforces only UN Security Council sanctions, Singapore companies and financial institutions (FIs) know they must consider the impact of unilateral sanctions on their commercial decisions,' the MFA spokesman said.
'The Monetary Authority of Singapore has reminded the FIs that they should enhance their due diligence and monitor more closely Iran-related business transactions.'
The seven economies that will now also be exempt for the next six months are India, South Korea, Turkey, South Africa, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. These had all 'significantly reduced' the volume of the oil they buy from Iran, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.
China, the leading importer of Iranian crude in the first half of last year, was also not granted exemption.
China imports crude from Iran based on its economic needs and its actions are 'completely fair and transparent', said its Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin. 'China is opposed to one country imposing unilateral sanctions on another country in accordance with domestic law, let alone imposing sanctions on a third country. China has imported crude oil from Iran through normal channels which are open and transparent, they do not violate relevant Security Council resolutions.'
In March, the US also granted exemption to Japan and 10 European Union (EU) nations. The EU collectively was the second-largest buyer of Iranian oil in the first half of last year. As a single country, Japan ranked second.