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Japan resumes oil imports from Iran after latest US sanctions

Japan resumes oil imports from Iran after latest US sanctions
Tokyo has resumed purchases of Iranian oil for the first time since suspending imports in line with US sanctions against the Islamic Republic, according to reports citing a Japanese refinery and the head of Iranian Central Bank.

Japan, one of Iran’s largest oil importers, stopped buying Iranian crude more than a month before Washington unleashed its latest sanctions against Iran in November, targeting the country’s oil sector. Tokyo was later granted a temporary waiver from the US embargo, but it took the Asian country around three months to finally resume purchases.

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On Monday, Japanese refiner Fuji Oil Co said its very large crude carrier (VLCC) ‘Kisogawa’ loaded a cargo of Iranian crude oil, Reuters reported, citing a company spokesman. Around two million barrels of Iranian oil on board the tanker is expected to reach Japan on February 9. Fuji Oil owns around a million barrels of the imported crude, while the rest of the shipment belongs to another major Japanese energy company, Showa Shell Sekiyu.

“It took a while for us to resume imports of Iranian oil,” the Fuji spokesman was quoted as saying by Reuters. He added that the biggest challenge was to get banks’ agreement to process payments to Iran.

Showa Shell reportedly refused to elaborate on the purchases, saying that the company would consider resuming crude imports from Tehran if all conditions are met.

“After China, South Korea, India and Turkey, Japan also started the process of importing Iranian oil, ” Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Abdolnaser Hemmati was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

However, the 180-day waiver Japan was granted alongside seven other countries will expire in early May, meaning that Japanese companies are allowed to buy Iranian oil for another four months. Last year, the president of Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ) said that the national oil-refining industry would call for an early extension of the waiver after the initial exemption ends.

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