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Japan to extend cuts in Iran oil imports in 2013, JX chief cays

Bloomberg

By Jacob Adelman & Yuji Okada

Japan will import fewer than 160,000 barrels a day of oil from Iran next year to avoid sanctions aimed at the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program, the head of Japan’s oil industry group said.

JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp., the country’s biggest refiner, will cut its imports from the current contract of about 80,000 barrels a day, Kimura Yasushi, who serves as chairman for both JX and the Petroleum Association of Japan, said at a press conference today.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March exempted Japan from sanctions on banks doing business with Iran because of the Asian country’s steps to reduce imports from the Persian Gulf nation. The waiver was renewed in September for a second six- month term for Japan, which was the world’s biggest importer of Iranian crude after in China in the first half of 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Imports from Iran averaged 190,000 barrels a day from January to October, 40 percent less than the same period last year, and fell to 160,000 barrels a day in October, Kimura said.

“Maintaining that 160,000 barrels a day as a ceiling, refiners will look into reducing more, as JX cuts its own imports,” said Kimura, who declined to comment on how much purchases would be cut. “We will tackle this while keeping a close eye on the U.S.’s policy on Iran.”

U.S. and European Union officials say Iran’s nuclear development is aimed at producing atomic weapons, while the government in Tehran says the project is for civilian purposes.