A day before India-US strategic dialogue here, the US has exempted India and six other nations from its tough Iran oil sanctions for significantly reducing their oil purchases from Tehran.
By exempting India from the sanctions, the US has taken a contentious issue off the table from their strategic dialogue, co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, starting here Wednesday
Besides India, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan too have been added to the exemption list, leaving China and Singapore, the top two buyers of Iranian crude, still exposed to possible penalties by the end of this month.
They "have all significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday of the countries added to the exemption list.
"By reducing Iran's oil sales, we are sending a decisive message to Iran's leaders: Until they take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, they will continue to face increasing isolation and pressure," Clinton said.
"We have implemented these sanctions to support our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to encourage Iran to comply with its international obligations," she said.
"The US remains committed to a dual-track policy that offers Iran the chance to engage seriously with the international community to resolve our concerns over its nuclear programme through negotiations with the P5+1," she said.
"Iran has the ability to address these concerns by taking concrete steps during the next round of talks in Moscow. I urge its leaders to do so," Clinton said.
Clinton announced in March that an "initial group" of countries -- Japan and 10 European Union nations -- had "significantly reduced" their Iranian oil purchases and thus qualified for an exemption under a sanctions law for a renewable period of 180 days.
India and South Korea, exempted Monday, were the third- and fourth-largest buyers of Iranian oil in the first half of last year, according to the US Department of Energy.
Under the US law enacted Dec 31, nations have until June 30 to demonstrate they have "significantly reduced" the volume of their Iranian crude purchases -- or their banks that settle oil trades with Iran may be cut off from the US financial system.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)