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Japan eyes significant cut in Iran crude imports, says paper

January 12, 2012

TOKYO, Jan 12 — The Japanese government has started co-ordinating with the domestic oil industry on significantly cutting crude imports from Iran, aiming to secure a waiver for Japanese banks from US sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, the Yomiuri newspaper said today.

Tokyo is unlikely to ban Iranian oil imports completely as it is difficult to quickly secure alternatives, with Iran accounting for about 9 per cent of total imports, and the size of the reduction will be decided based on consultations with the United States, the paper said without citing sources.

File photo of an engineer working inside the Kalol oil field in the western Indian state of Gujarat on September 12, 2009. — Reuters picFile photo of an engineer working inside the Kalol oil field in the western Indian state of Gujarat on September 12, 2009. — Reuters picJapan has been weighing various options to secure a waiver on the new US sanctions against Iran, including reducing Iranian oil imports and dealings with its central bank, the main conduit for Tehran’s oil revenues, government sources have said.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is meeting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Finance Minister Jun Azumi today to seek co-operation on stricter sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear programme.

He earlier visited China for similar talks, as well as to discuss the global economy.

Iran denies Western suspicions that its nuclear programme has military goals, saying it is for purely peaceful purposes.

Japan has been seeking an exemption to the sanctions, signed into law by President Barack Obama last month, which would penalise financial institutions for undertaking transactions with Iran’s central bank.

Japan’s biggest refiner, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp, has been in talks with top exporter Saudi Arabia and other oil producers to source crude to replace any disruption to its imports from Iran.

The Japanese government will present Washington with a list of possible options in exchange for a waiver by the end of February, a government source said last week.

Japan is Iran’s No. 3 crude buyer and imported 312,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude in the first 11 months of 2011, accounting for 8.8 per cent of its total crude imports, according to calculations based on government data. — Reuters

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