WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - The United States plans to exempt Japan and 10 European Union nations from new U.S. financial sanctions because they have significantly reduced purchases of Iranian crude oil, four sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
The European Union countries include Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain, a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters.
Under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, U.S. President Barack Obama has the ability to impose financial sanctions on foreign banks that carry out financial transactions with Iran's central bank "for the purchase of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran" if several conditions are met.
However, the law gives the president an explicit exemption under which he can choose not to apply sanctions if he determines that the country with primary jurisdiction over the bank has "significantly reduced" its volume of crude oil purchases. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Anthony Boadle and Jackie Frank)