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TOKYO (Reuters) - Imports of crude oil by Iran's four major buyers in Asia in November more than doubled for a second straight month from a year ago, with purchases by India and South Korea more than four times higher.
Iran's top four Asian buyers - China, India, South Korea and Japan - imported 1.94 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up 117 percent on a year earlier, government and ship-tracking data showed.
That was just short of the 2016 peak of 1.99 million bpd hit in the previous month, which was the highest since at least 2010, according to data by International Energy Agency.
The volumes were in line with the OPEC member's crude oil and condensate export plans.
Iran was exempted from last month's OPEC deal to reduce output by 1.2 million bpd starting Jan. 1, a victory for Tehran which has argued it needs to regain the market share it lost under Western sanctions targeting its nuclear programme.
Industry sources have said Iran has been offering discounts to buyers in return for increasing their purchases.
Iran's crude oil imports cost Japan an average $45.46 a barrel for November, which was the third cheapest after Mexico and Oman, customs-cleared trade data by Japan's Ministry of Finance showed on Tuesday.
Japan's trade ministry on Wednesday released official data showing its imports jumped 41.2 percent from a year earlier to 237,653 bpd last month.
India's imports grew more than four-fold from a year earlier to 620,000 bpd, topping China's imports for a third straight month. South Korean imports were nearly five times higher at 472,067 bpd.
Looking ahead, Iran's crude oil exports in December are set to fall 8 percent from November to a five-month low, a source with knowledge of its preliminary tanker schedule said in mid-December, as lower shipments to China and others in Asia offset bumper exports to Europe.
Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Richard Pullin