President Lee Myung-bak asked the visiting Iraqi foreign minister Thursday for a stable supply of crude oil as South Korea weighs options to reduce its crude imports from Iran, in concert with U.S.-led sanctions against Tehran.
Lee and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who arrived in Seoul earlier in the day for a four-day visit, met at the presidential office to discuss a range of topics to forge bilateral cooperation, officials said.
During the meeting, Lee "asked Iraq to cooperate with Korea for a stable supply of crude oil and provide support for our companies to participate in oil and gas development projects in Iraq," a presidential official said.
Zebari responded that his government will make efforts to ensure a stable supply of oil to South Korea and thanked Seoul for its reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Zebari is the first Iraqi foreign minister to visit South Korea since the two nations established diplomatic ties in 1989, Seoul's foreign ministry said.
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Zebari will hold talks on Friday to discuss ways to "strengthen bilateral economic relationships, including a measure to secure a stable supply of Iraqi oil," ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said earlier in the day.
South Korea imports about 10 percent of its crude oil from Iran but is looking to cut that volume in line with U.S. sanctions imposed over Teheran's nuclear ambitions.
South Korea has expressed support for the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Iran but has yet to work out details of its action.
A delegation of South Korean officials will visit the U.S. late this month or early next month for discussions on details of the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran, including the volume of Seoul's cuts.