January 31, 2013 / 5:22 AM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-Japan 2012 crude imports from Iran fall 39.5 pct

* 2012 imports fall to 189,076 bpd

* Dec imports fall 36.9 pct to 209,213 bpd (Adds details)

TOKYO, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Japan’s crude imports from Iran fell 39.5 percent in 2012, trade ministry data showed on Thursday, in line with falls among other Asian buyers as Western sanctions cut shipments to Japanese refiners from the Middle Eastern country.

Japan, the world’s third-biggest oil consumer, imported 11,002,218 kilolitres (189,076 barrels per day) of Iranian crude last year, compared with 18,191,375 kl (313,480 bpd) a year earlier, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said.

In December, Iranian imports totalled 1,031,128 kl (209,213 bpd), down 36.9 percent from 1,635,000 kl (331,736 bpd) a year earlier.

Tough sanctions from Washington and Europe to force Iran to curb its nuclear programme cut the Middle Eastern country’s oil exports by more than half last year, costing it more than $5 billion a month. Tehran says the programme is for civilian purposes.

The reduced cash flow has contributed to a plunge in the value of Iran’s currency, the rial, and leading importers, China, India, Japan and South Korea, are set to cut purchases further this year to win waivers to protect them from U.S. penalties.

The United States in September renewed waivers on Iranian sanctions for Japan and 10 European countries because they cut their purchases of the OPEC nation’s crude oil.

Other Asian buyers also have cut Iranian crude imports, with

China’s 2012 imports posting a fall of 21 percent from 2011 to 21.92 million tonnes, or 438,448 bpd.

India imported 315,200 bpd of Iranian crude in 2012, down 1.7 percent from a year earlier, while South Korea’s imports of crude oil from Iran dropped 35.6 percent last year to 56.15 million barrels, or 153,405 bpd.

Japan’s oil imports from Iran may be about 15 percent lower in 2013, capped roughly at 160,000 bpd and may possibly be cut further, Yasushi Kimura, president of the Petroleum Association of Japan, who also serves as the chairman of JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp, told reporters last month. (1 kl=6.2898 barrels) (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Shinichi Saoshiro)

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