Japan diplomat says to keep buying Iran oil

Reuters, Sunday 11 Mar 2012

Japanese ambassador to Tehran says his country will continue to import Iranian crude despite US-imposed sanctions

Japan will continue to import as much Iranian crude oil as it needs, the Japanese ambassador to Tehran was quoted by Iranian media on Sunday as saying.

Japan has been put under pressure to reduce its use of Iranian crude by the United States which has imposed tough sanctions against Iran's energy and banking sectors to force Tehran to curb its nuclear activities.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said last week that Tokyo and Washington were close to an agreement for Japan to reduce its Iranian oil imports.

But Japanese ambassador Kinichi Kumano said Japan hopes to continue its economic, political and cultural relations with Tehran, despite the nuclear problem.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran remains one of Japan's key crude oil suppliers," the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Kinichi Kumano as saying.

"The Japanese government is committed to developing relations in other areas, in cultural spheres and it doesn't see obstacles to scientific collaboration either."

OPEC's second-largest oil exporter accounted for 8.8 per cent of Japan's total oil imports in 2011, but the daily volume of Iranian crude it imported fell about 16 per cent from the first half to the second half of last year.

Pressure to reduce Iranian oil buying comes as Japanese utilities are increasing overall fossil fuel imports in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011.

Washington has exerted increasing pressure on its allies not to buy Iranian crude, saying that companies who continue to do so will be banned from doing business in the United States. Indian and Chinese officials have said they will not reduce imports.

In January, the European Union announced its boycott against the Iranian oil industry and has given member states until July to find alternative suppliers.

Washington and its allies believe Iran is trying to establish a nuclear weapons program, accusations Tehran has repeatedly denied.

Short link: