South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak will make a week-long visit to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as Seoul seeks to diversify its oil sources, it was announced Monday.
The United States wants its close ally South Korea to reduce purchases of Iranian crude in line with a US-led drive to sanction Tehran for its suspected nuclear weapons programme.
South Korea, the world's fifth largest oil importer, currently accounts for around 10 percent of Iran's oil exports. It has yet to cut the import of Iranian oil due to fears of economic damage.
Lee's trip to the Middle East will help South Korea "secure a stable supply of energy resources", the president's office said.
He will arrive in Turkey on Saturday for a four-day visit that includes talks with President Abdullah Gul about expanding trade and other issues.
The agenda also includes the possible participation of South Korean firms in Turkey's infrastructure construction, it said.
In 2010 South Korea discussed a ê20 billion project to build nuclear reactors in Turkey but negotiations were suspended due to differences.
South Korea operates 20 nuclear plants that generate some 35 percent of its electricity needs, and is eager to export its expertise as a new growth engine.
Lee will visit Saudi Arabia on February 7-9 for talks with King Abdullah on strengthening cooperation in energy, construction and other areas.
He will visit Qatar on February 9 and make a stopover in the UAE on his way home.