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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's oil imports from Iran rose nearly 17 percent in February from a month earlier as refiners received less crude from key OPEC producers Saudi Arabia and Iraq after an OPEC deal to cut output, shipping data showed on Monday.
The jump meant Iran replaced regional rival Iraq as India's second-biggest oil supplier - a role Tehran used to occupy before Western sanctions were imposed against it over the country's disputed nuclear programme.
While Saudi Arabia remained the biggest oil supplier to India, ship tracking data and a report compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts showed imports from Iran rose to 647,000 barrels per day (bpd) in February. That was 16.7 percent more than January, and almost trebled from February 2016. \
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) pledged to curb production by about 1.2 million bpd from Jan. 1, the first cut in eight years, in a move designed to boost prices and drain a supply glut. Iran, Libya and Nigeria were, however, granted exemptions from the deal.
In the first 11 months of this fiscal year, between April and February, India imported about 542,400 bpd from Iran, compared to about 225,522 bpd for the same period a year ago. Average oil volumes supplied by Iran over this period were the highest on record.
In the first two months of 2017, India's oil imports from Iran averaged 598,400 bpd compared to about 192,500 bpd a year ago, the data showed.
Indian refiners including Reliance Industries Ltd, operator of the world's biggest refinery complex at Jamnagar, have returned as buyers of Iranian oil after having stopped imports from Iran during the sanctions period.
Meanwhile, India's February oil imports from Saudi Arabia and Iraq were nearly a third lower than the same month a year ago.
Nigerian oil supplies in February stood at 527,400 bpd, the data showed, a jump of 94 percent from the previous month. That meant the African nation emerged as the fourth-biggest oil supplier to India, displacing Venezuela.
The latter, witnessing a decline in production, is cutting supplies to India as it is fulfilling obligations under oil for loan deals with China and Russia.
Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell