WASHINGTON  – Twelve countries that buy Iranian oil could be subject to US sanctions unless they significantly cut purchases, a US State Department official said on Wednesday.

The department released the number of countries - but not their names - on Tuesday after saying the United States would grant exemptions to the sanctions to Japan and 10 European Union nations that have cut shipments of Iranian oil.

Countries that won the exemptions have a six-month reprieve from the threat of being cut off from the US financial system under sanctions designed to pressure Iran over its nuclear programme, which the West suspects is intended to produce weapons. The State Department official gave the following list of the 12 countries including Pakistan that remain potentially subject to sanctions.

The group includes China and India, the top two importers of Iran’s crude, and South Korea, the fourth-largest buyer.

Country: Rank in top buyers of Iranian crude

China 1, India 2, Indonesia (NA), Malaysia (NA), Pakistan (NA), Philippines (NA), Singapore (NA), South Africa 9, South Korea 4, Sri Lanka (NA), Taiwan (NA), Turkey (NA).

NA indicates the country’s ranking was not immediately available.