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Iran demands South Korea release billions in funds frozen under US sanctions

Tehran’s VP makes claim in press conference with South Korean PM; visit comes after Iran released South Korean-flagged tanker it seized three months ago

Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri in 2016. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iranian First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri in 2016. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

TEHRAN, Iran — Tehran urged Seoul on Sunday to release billions of dollars of Iranian funds frozen in South Korea under US sanctions over its nuclear program, during a visit by the South Korean premier.

“We call on the (South) Korean government to release Iran’s financial resources as soon as possible,” Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun in Tehran.

Chung’s visit comes after Iran on Friday released a South Korean-flagged tanker it had seized three months ago, as Tehran pressed Seoul to unblock billions in frozen oil funds.

Iran had accused South Korea of holding “hostage” $7 billion of its funds, but Tehran has repeatedly denied that the seizure of the vessel was linked to the issue.

A seized South Korean-flagged tanker is escorted by Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats on the Persian Gulf January 4, 2021. (Tasnim News Agency via AP, File)

Iran was a key oil supplier to resource-poor South Korea until Seoul stopped its purchases, after a US decision in 2018, under then-president Donald Trump, to unilaterally exit the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose crushing sanctions.

New US President Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to revive the accord and negotiations are underway in Vienna between Iran and the other state parties to the 2015 deal — Germany, China, France, Britain and Russia — to salvage the accord and lift sanctions on the Islamic republic.

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