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Japan to consult US, seek easing of Iran oil import curbs: official

Baku — Japan will try to avoid any sudden reduction in its Iranian crude oilimports and may seek some form of exemption from the renewed US sanctionsregime, an official at the country's ministry of economy, trade and industry,Daisuke Hirota, said Wednesday.

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On the sidelines of a conference in Azerbaijan, Hirota, who is principaldeputy director at METI's oil and gas division, played down the prospect forJapan to reduce its imports of Iranian crude, something the PetroleumAssociation of Japan has said could happen from October.

He noted Japan had an exemption from the US and EU-led sanctions regimeearlier in the decade.

"We continued to import about 170,000 b/d from Iran and now we continueto import from Iran at this level," he told S&P Global Platts. "We think tocontinue to get the exemption from the US to keep this amount of imports fromIran."

"Japanese companies don't want to stop imports suddenly," he said, addingthe US position needed clarifying.

"The situation in the US government is drastically changing every day,"he said.

"Now we are collecting information and keep in touch with the USgovernment."

"We need to continue to keep imports, and to keep imports from Iran weneed to get information and communication with the US government," he said.

Iran's relatively low-cost crude accounts for around 5% of Japan's crudeoil imports, and is valued by Japanese refiners partly because of its heavierquality, Hirota noted.

--Nick Coleman,

--Edited by Jeremy Lovell,