(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday that 11 of the 23 countries which currently import Iranian crude oil will be exempt from sanctions based on the National Defense Authorization Act.
Clinton will issue her report to Congress finding that Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom have all “significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran” enough to warrant an exception. The exemptions are subject to review every 180 days.
A senior State Department official says that the U.S. views the EU countries and Japan as good examples of what the remaining 12 countries still importing oil from Iran need to do. The official specifically praised Japan for reducing its import by 15-22 percent, calling it “an extraordinary action by the Japanese people following the devastation of Fukishima.”
President Obama will determine on March 30 whether the current global oil market would reasonably allow countries to switch from Iranian crude oil to other suppliers, without damaging their economies. If he decides that it’s possible, any country that has not received an exemption for significantly reducing its Iranian oil imports by June 28 will be subject to sanctions.
But, the official admitted that there are no specific parameters as to what constitutes “significant” reduction. And since the law didn’t go into effect until Feb. 29, any sanction-worthy activities would have to take place after that date and be investigated, making the actual implementation of sanctions a lengthy process.
Some of the countries not in compliance include staunch allies like South Korea and India. China has also not received an exemption. But the official, as well as the Tuesday statement by Clinton, stress that this is just the first round. Negotiations with the other 12 countries are continuing.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Holly Yan and Joe Sterling, CNN
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Joe Sterling and Cassandra Santiago, CNN
Larry Register, CNN