WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has exempted China and Singapore from sanctions over purchases of oil from Iran, hours before restrictions would have entered into force against their banks.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she had determined that the countries had "significantly reduced" their crude oil purchases from Tehran, meriting the waiver.
A total of 20 countries have now been exempted.
The deadline for countries to stop dealing with Iran's Central Bank
-- which handles the country's main export -- or face U.S. sanctions went into effect on June 28.
The sanctions are meant to pressure Iran to come clean on its nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies this.
The decision to exempt China is expected to face criticism from some U.S. lawmakers.
Energy industry sources expect China's imports from Iran to rise in coming months.
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters