Olympics body says sorry to Iran over 'misunderstanding'

The logo of Samsung Electronics is seen at its office building in Seoul

The logo of Samsung Electronics is seen at its office building in Seoul

Iran said on Friday that its athletes had refused to accept special Samsung mobile telephones issued for the Winter Olympics in South Korea until they received an apology for initially being refused them.

Teheran's foreign ministry on Thursday summoned South Korea's ambassador to Iran, demanding Seoul and Samsung deliver an apology.

The ambassador was warned that "if Samsung does not make its excuses... this affair will have strong repercussions on commercial relations between the Samsung Group and the Islamic Republic of Iran".

Also, Iran's Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri ordered his deputy to summon Samsung representatives in Tehran to protest at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organizers' move against Iranian athletes.

News reports said 4,000 of the phones were being given to athletes attending the Pyeongchang Games, but that athletes from Iran and North Korea would be excluded because of worldwide sanctions against the two countries.

Although the game organisers backtracked, reports of the incident caused a storm in Iran where Samsung has a major presence.

South Korean PM to host lunch for high-level DPRK delegation
And so, with a little help from a liberal South Korean president eager to engage Pyongyang, the 2018 Pyeongchang Games open. Of course, if North Korea moves forward with new provocations - such as missile or nuclear tests - all bets are off.

Most worldwide sanctions on Iran have been lifted under a 2015 nuclear accord between world powers and Tehran, although curbs remain on the transfer of arms and technology. There are 22 North Korean and four Iranian athletes at the 2018 Winter Games. The South Korean tech giant is a worldwide Olympic partner company.

Through a statement provided to Yonhap News Agency on Thursday, the International Olympic Committee said it has asked North Koreans to return the free handsets after the event.

The isolated nation's squad has been left empty-handed due to United Nations sanctions that ban the sending of luxury items to North Korea or to North Korean nationals, according to an Associated Press report.

"The IOC has confirmed that the Iranian athletes are entitled to receive and keep the phones".

Samsung, a big player in Iran's electronics market, had said the International Olympic Committee was responsible for distributing gifts at the Olympics and had no further comment.

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