The United States says it has exempted 11 nations including 10 European Union members and Japan from tough new sanctions on Iran as they have reduced oil purchase from Tehran.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement on Tuesday that the exemption covers financial institutions from 11 nations - Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, AFP reported.
"The actions taken by these countries were not easy…. They had to rethink their energy needs at a critical time for the world economy and quickly begin to find alternatives to Iranian oil, which many had been reliant on for their energy needs," she added.
Clinton also commended these countries, especially Japan, for their actions in significantly reducing crude oil purchases from Tehran and urged other nations that import oil from Iran to follow their example.
"Diplomacy coupled with strong pressure can achieve the long-term solutions we seek and we will continue to work with our international partners to increase the pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations," she noted.
Meanwhile, a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that President Barack Obama would ultimately have to decide whether to impose economic sanctions that under the law take effect on June 28.
The most important countries which have not been included on the exemption list are China, India and South Korea.
China is the biggest buyer of the Iranian crude and figures released by US Department of Energy show that about 22 percent of Iranian oil exports go to the East Asian country.
Beijing also strongly opposes trade restrictions against Iran, saying that oil sanctions are not “constructive.”
India, despite friendly relations with the United States, has also defied pressure to shut off oil from Iran.
The US and EU have imposed tough financial and oil sanctions against Iran since the beginning of 2012, claiming that the country’s nuclear energy program includes a military component.
Tehran refutes their claims noting that frequent inspections by International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to prove any diversion in Iran's nuclear energy program toward military purposes.