Acting at the last minute, the Obama administration on Thursday spared China and Singapore from potentially onerous financial penalties required under a strict American law on Iran sanctions, saying that both countries had earned an exemption by significantly reducing their purchases of Iranian crude oil.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the waivers for China and Singapore in a statement as the American law, aimed at severely reducing Iran’s ability to export oil, its economic lifeline, formally took effect. The law is part of a coordinated Western effort to pressure Iran economically because of its disputed nuclear program. The European Union will impose an embargo on Iranian oil starting this Sunday.
The measures are sure to compound economic pain in Iran, where oil exports this year compared with 2011 have plunged by 40 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.