South Korea announces sanctions against Iran

South Korea said it would penalise a key Iranian bank and put all financial transactions with Tehran under strict government supervision as part of sanctions over its nuclear programme.

Foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-Sun said Wednesday the government would impose a “heavy penalty” on the Seoul branch of Bank Mellat, which allegedly facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions for Iranian nuclear, missile and defence entities.Kim did not elaborate but Yonhap news agency said the bank would likely face a two-month suspension.

The decision came despite the fact that Iran is South Korea’s biggest trading partner in the Middle East and the source of 10 percent of its oil imports.The United States hailed the sanctions move as increasing pressure on Tehran to return to the negotiating table to address concerns about its nuclear aims.

Measures include blacklisting 24 individuals and 102 Iranian entities, including 14 other banks, as well as the strengthening of inspection of cargoes related to Iran.There are also restrictions on new investment in Iran’s oil and gas industry, but no ban on oil imports.