Thu, Feb 09, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan tries to cut Iranian oil imports at behest of the US

HARD TO DO:At 6.8% of Taiwan’s crude oil imports, Iran is the nation’s third-largest source of oil after the DPP had expanded Iranian crude oil imports

By Chris Wang  /  Staff Reporter

Taiwan is trying to cut its crude oil imports from Iran after the US expressed its wish for Taiwan’s inclusion in a collaborative international sanctions scheme to curb Iran’s nuclear program, sources told the Taipei Times yesterday.

The US and the EU last month approved sanctions on imports of Iranian crude oil and a freeze of assets of the Iranian central bank, agreeing on a July 1 deadline for countries to end their oil contracts with Iran.

They have been trying to persuade a list of countries, including China, India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, to make a commitment on the joint effort. Japan and South Korea have agreed to implement the sanctions, while China and India have refused.

“We have discussed with our international partners, including Taiwan, the implementation of new US sanctions on Iran. These sanctions intensify pressure on Iran and strengthen the impact of existing measures by targeting transactions with the Central Bank of [the Islamic Republic of] Iran and designated Iranian financial institutions and Iran’s ability to earn revenue from its oil imports,” Christopher Kavanagh, spokesperson of the American Institute in Taiwan, wrote in an e-mail.

Taiwan would agree to gradually cut crude oil imports from Iran, despite it being difficult to implement, a national security official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

At 6.8 percent of total imports, Iran was Taiwan’s third-largest source of crude in 2010, behind Saudi Arabia at 33.4 percent and Kuwait at 22.5 percent. Iran accounted for about 21.4 million barrels in 2010, statistics from the Bureau of Energy show.

Shares of Taiwan’s Iranian crude oil imports dramatically increased under former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration, peaking at 18.3 percent in 2003.

That gradually went down between 2008 and 2010, from 12.94 percent in 2008 to 7.8 percent in 2009 and 6.8 percent in 2010.

Implementing the sanctions will be difficult because Taiwan would be at risk of breaching contracts, the same issues Japan and South Korea would be dealing with, the official said.

Moreover, even though the government can order CPC Corp, Taiwan (台灣中油) to reduce imports from Iran, it cannot demand that privately owned Formosa Petrochemical Corp (台塑石化) to do so, the official said, adding that it would be difficult to track Iranian oil imports transported via a third country.

Taiwan has always been keen on adhering to resolutions reached by international organizations, including the UN and EU, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said on condition of anonymity.

The ministry official declined to confirm whether Taipei had been approached by Washington, but said that Taiwan would do its best to implement the sanction if asked by the US.

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