Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh downplayed effectiveness of the Western sanctions on the country's energy sector, saying that his ministry experts have paved the way for a remarkable hike in oil exports during the current Iranian year calendar (started March 21). The Iranian minister underlined that sanctions can not affect Iran’s decision to maintain its OPEC share. “Tehran will do its best to increase its oil exports and will not wait for a US permission to do that,” he noted. Late in March, the International Energy Agency announced that Iran increased its crude exports in March for a fifth consecutive month as global demand for its oil rose after Tehran and the major world powers reached a deal in Geneva in November. According to a report published by Reuters, Iranian crude exports, excluding to Japan, reached 1.28 million barrels per day (bpd) in March and included sales to top buyers such as China and India as well as South Korea, Turkey and Syria. The report quoted an informed source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying that there has been an increase of about 14 percent in Iran's crude exports in March compared to February. Iran’s crude exports were around 1.4 million bpd in February. Meanwhile, official data show that South Korea more than doubled its crude oil imports from Iran in February year-on-year. According to data released by the state-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC), South Korea’s crude imports from Iran stood at 8.140 million barrels or roughly 290,000 bpd in February, up from around 4 million barrels in the same period last year.