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  National
Vice Minister Lee to head for Iran next week
Iran Probing News Source on Alleged Trade Ban: Amb. Mozaffari
Iranian Ambassador to Seoul Jahanbaksh Mozaffari

South Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Lee Kyu-hyung will head for Iran early next week to meet Iranian government leaders to demand that its restrictions on imports from South Korea be lifted immediately to help promote mutual economic benefits, foreign ministry officials said on Oct. 20.

The announcement on Lee's planned visit to Iran came after a ranking ministry official called in the Iranian ambassador to South Korea, Jahanabakhsh Mozaffari., and asked him to clarify Teheran's position on the issue.

He told reporters in Seoul on Oct. 20, 2005.that Iran was reviewing the source and reason behind a published news item which said the country was imposing a limitation on the importation of goods from South Korea.

Yonhap News and other local dailies on Oct. 19 quoted an anonymous South Korean official as saying Iran is blocking imports of South Korean goods in an apparent attempt to pressure the nation over its opposition to Iran's nuclear program.

"Iran's official policy with respect to South Korea is based on expansion and consolidation of relations with the country in all fields," according to Iranian news agency IRNA which said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during a recent visit of South Korea.

It was earlier reported here that Iran was blocking imports of British and South Korean goods in an apparent attempt to pressure the two nations over their opposition to Iran's nuclear issue.

Iran said last month it could use trade to punish countries that voted for an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution on referring Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear programme.

"We have received a verbal order from the Commerce Ministry, about a trade ban imposed on South Korean and British companies," an official at a state manufacturing company, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

He said the order was due to the two countries' "hostility" toward Iran, over its nuclear program which Tehran insists is purely for peaceful purposes.

Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi declined to confirm the import bans, but the semi-official ISNA students news agency quoted him as saying: "Iran's national interests should be considered all the time. This consideration is true in the case of those countries which have an unfair policy regarding Iran."

Diplomats said they had enough evidence to confirm the order.

"Basically it means that goods are being held up in customs, letters of credit for imports are not being granted and so on," said a British diplomat who declined to be named.

While Iran's oil and gas exports were not affected, the order may impinge on energy operations, which often rely on imported equipment and technology.

An official at a state-run South Korean trade agency noted reports that the Iranian trade agency had been rejecting permits for South Korean products.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said at a briefing he could not confirm whether the ban had been imposed.

"It would not be appropriate for Iran to take this type of action for a position we have taken at an international organization," Ban said, referring to the IAEA vote.

In a meeting with Korea's new ambassador to Tehran this week, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that the Islamic republic wanted to strike a balance between its economic and political ties with other countries.

Korean products have won a large share of Iran's consumer market in recent years, particularly in electrical goods through manufacturers like Samsung and LG.

Britain, which aside from the nuclear issue is also engaged in a row with Tehran over bombing accusations, has been on the receiving end of such trade measures several times in the past three years.

"Whenever things get a bit tense, this happens," the British diplomat said. The last time British goods were banned by Iran was in 2004 when an Iranian diplomat in the UK was facing an extradition request by Argentina.

The Farhang-e Ashti newspaper on Wednesday said imports from Argentina and the Czech Republic had also been halted.

"This is Iran's first step to limit its trade relations with countries with a hostile policy toward Iran," the paper said.

But diplomatic sources said these countries' trade problems with Iran were not new and were related to separate issues.




 

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