* Waivers on U.S. sanctions separate from Geneva agreement
* Kerry says U.S. will continue to enforce Iran sanctions
* Geneva accord lets consumers buy oil at current levels
(Adds background, details)
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department
extended six-month Iran sanctions waivers on Friday to China,
India, South Korea and other countries in exchange for their
reducing purchases of Iranian crude oil earlier this year.
The waivers had been expected. Under a law governing
sanctions imposed on Iran's disputed nuclear program by the
United States, the State Department is required to determine
whether the Islamic Republic's oil consumers have reduced their
The decision comes even after the United States and five
other global powers, known as the P5+1, agreed in Geneva this
month to ease Iran's access to about $4.2 billion in foreign
currency reserves for six months in exchange for Tehran's taking
steps to curb its nuclear program.
The waivers, which the State Department calls exceptions,
mean that banks in the consuming countries will not face being
cut off from the U.S. financial system for the next six months.
"We will continue to aggressively enforce our sanctions over
the next six months, as we work to determine whether there is a
comprehensive solution that gives us confidence that the Iranian
nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes," Secretary
of State John Kerry said in a statement.
Since the beginning of the sanctions regime in 2012, all 20
of Iran's oil customers have qualified for the periodic waivers.
But despite the Geneva agreement, the United States reserves the
right to sanction any oil consuming country should it suddenly
increase its purchases.
Officials from the Departments of State, Treasury and
Commerce have worked with Iran's buyers since 2012 in an effort
to find alternative sources of crude, including oil from Saudi
Under the Geneva accord, the P5+1 agreed to pause efforts to
further reduce Iran's crude oil sales, allowing consuming
countries to continue buying their "current average amounts of
crude oil." The interim agreement is meant to build confidence
for a final agreement on the nuclear program.
Under that agreement, Iran's oil exports will be held to
about 1 million barrels per day, the level its sales have
averaged this year. Iran's oil shipments were about 2.5 million
bpd in the beginning of 2012, before U.S. and European sanctions
took effect. The U.S. sanctions law could have driven Iran's oil
sales even lower if Iran and the P5+1 did not come to agreement
The State Department said Turkey and Taiwan also qualified
for the waivers. Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore and Sri
Lanka, which no longer purchase oil from Iran, also qualified
for the exceptions.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Ros Krasny, Sandra
Maler and Jim Marshall)