* All 20 of Iran's oil buyers have now received waivers
* Sanctions seek to cut funding to Iran nuclear program
* Clinton: Iran to face more pressure without changes
* EU, US sanctions costing Iran $5 bln a month -US Treasury
By Timothy Gardner and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Dec 7 The United States granted
180-day waivers on Iran sanctions to China, India and a number
of other countries on Friday in exchange for their cutting
purchases of oil from the Islamic Republic.
President Barack Obama's administration has now renewed
waivers for all 20 of Iran's major oil buyers, after granting
them to Japan and 10 European Union countries in September.
F r i day's action was the second renewal for all 20 after Obama
signed the sanctions into law a year ago.
The sanctions aim to choke funding to Iran's nuclear
program, which the West suspects is enriching uranium to levels
that could be used in weapons. Tehran says the program is for
"The United States and the international community remain
committed to maintaining pressure on the Iranian regime until it
fully addresses concerns about its nuclear program," Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.
Clinton also granted waivers, known as "exceptions," on
Friday to South Korea, South Africa, Turkey, Sri Lanka,
Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.
Under the sanctions law, banks in countries that buy oil
from Iran can be cut off from the U.S. financial system unless
their purchases decline.
Iran's oil exports have fallen 50 percent this year in the
face of U.S. sanctions and a EU embargo that began on July 1.
That has cost Iran up to $5 billion a month and led to a plunge
in Iran's currency, the rial, David Cohen, undersecretary for
terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury
Department said this week.
But some lawmakers in the U.S. Congress want tougher
"The administration continues to let transgressions slide
and enable the profits of (Iran's) energy sector to fuel their
nuclear ambitions," said Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
chairwoman of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs
Committee, who was critical of the waivers.
IRAN'S CURRENCY RESERVES
How long Iran can function without exporting as much oil is
unclear, as Tehran has tens of billions of dollars in currency
reserves accumulated over decades as one of the world's largest
In September and October, the latest months for which data
were available, Iran's crude production fell by 1 million
barrels per day, compared with the same time last year,
according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Clinton said Iran should take "concrete actions" to satisfy
the international community through negotiations with the U.N.
Security Council members plus Germany "or face increasing
isolation and pressure."
China, which is Iran's top oil customer and a permanent
member of the Security Council, has opposed unilateral sanctions
such as those imposed by Washington.
But its oil imports from Iran are down 22 percent on the
year to 426,000 bpd from January to October. Early in the year,
the imports were cut as China and Iran butted heads over a
contract dispute. More recently, Iranian tankers have struggled
to ship even reduced volumes requested by importers.
Top sanctions backers in Congress, Senators Robert Menendez,
a New Jersey Democrat, and Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican,
have urged Obama to require oil importers to reduce purchases by
18 percent or more to qualify for the further waivers.
U.S. officials from the State Department and other agencies
have fanned out this year, visiting Iran's major buyers.
They have not asked countries to cut by specific percentages
to get the waivers. Rather, they say, they had conversations
with the buyers about alternative oil suppliers like Iraq and
The talks have also taken into account seasonal factors like
some countries needing more oil in winter for heating.
The U.S. Senate last week resoundingly approved a third
round of sanctions that if passed into law, would target
loopholes including the flow of gold from Turkey to Iran in
payment for natural gas exports.
Critics of the U.S. sanctions say they will not rein in
Iran's nuclear program unless they are accompanied by adequate