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Top Iranian envoy hints at easing tension over possible sanctions

08-12-2010 10:17 BJT

SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- As South Korea mulls seeking independent sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, the top Iranian envoy to Seoul has been vocal in warning of its potentially harmful consequences.

Iran's Ambassador to South Korea, Mohammad-Reza Bakhtiari, openly warned in his previous interviews with local media that Seoul will be risking its good ties with Tehran and its financial interest if it hops on a U.S.-led bandwagon to impose additional sanctions against his country.

In what might be a hint at a thawing of tension, however, the ambassador seemed to have toned down his remarks on the issue.

"( I) think normal relations that have existed between South Korea and Iran can continue," Bakhtiari said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday with Xinhua.

South Korean officials have expressed they will not to pursue unilateral sanctions against Iran, a decision Iran "warmly welcomes and respect," he said.

As an ally to Washington, Seoul has been under pressure to follow the U.S. lead to pressure Iran into dropping its alleged nuclear ambition.

"There is no obligation whatsoever put on the shoulders of the South Korean government, or any other independent countries, to follow suit with Americans or the European Union," the envoy added, referring to their decision to further punish Iran after the United Nations introduced new sanctions in July against the country for failing to abide by international nonproliferation obligations.

"They are not representing the whole world," Bakhtiari said.

Being a country entirely dependent on oil imports, South Korea' s biggest fear has been a possibility that Iran, the fourth- largest source of crude oil for the country, might cut its oil supplies.

But Iran will not take such a drastic action against its longtime customer, the envoy said."We have tried to become a very reliable source of oil and energy for South Korea, and we both enjoy benefits of such healthy cooperation," Bakhtiari said.

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