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METI minister says Japan 'carefully analyzing impact' from US sanctions on Iran

Tokyo — Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko saidTuesday the country was "carefully analyzing the impact" of the US' intendedsanctions against Iran, to ensure its energy supply, following a meeting witha US delegation last week in Tokyo.

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* Minister says Japanese companies also discussed sanctions impact

* Japanese refiners mull response to US sanctions

"We are carefully analyzing the impact from the upcoming sanctions tomake sure [they do] not have a bad impact on [Japan's] stable energy supply,"Seko told a news conference in Tokyo.

"We will also continue our talks with relevant countries, including theUS, on the impact on Japanese companies ," he said.

While declining to disclose details of the discussions with the USdelegation last week, Seko said: "Discussions between the governments as wellas with relevant companies included the impact of sanctions."

A senior US delegation, comprised by Assistant Secretary of the Bureau ofInternational Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford, StateDepartment and Treasury officials, briefed their Japanese counterparts lastTuesday in Tokyo about Washington's new Iran strategy, and discussed theimpact of the intended renewal of sanctions.

The US State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

A Japanese government source said Monday Japan is seeking an "early"exemption from the US on sanctions against Iran to facilitate oil shippingarrangements.

The source declined to comment on the outlook for securing the USsanctions waiver or if Washington had asked Japan to stop its Iranian oilimports.

MULLING RESPONSE

Petroleum Association of Japan President Takashi Tsukioka said FridayJapanese importers of Iranian oil would need US sanctions waivers by November4 to continue imports because the US aims to shut down Iranian exports.

"We will have to take certain measures if things move because the USwants to take [Iranian oil] to zero," Tsukioka told a news conference inTokyo.

Tsukioka said refiners' purchases of Iranian oil imports in August couldbe "the last" without securing waivers as oil loaded after September would besubject to US sanctions. He added that October-loading barrels would be paidfor in November.

"This means it will be difficult for us to gain a clear overview of allthese developments in the next month and a half," he added.

Japan's largest refiner JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy said Monday it is awareof reports about the US' request to slash Iranian oil imports to zero but saidit had not received any guidance from the Japanese government over theimports.

Japan imported an average of 165,481 b/d of Iranian oil in fiscal 2017-18(April-March), down 28% from the previous fiscal year. Iranian importsaccounted for 5.2% of Japan's total crude imports of 3.19 million b/d in thefiscal year ended March 31, according to the METI data.

US President Donald Trump said on May 8 the US would withdraw from theIran nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions that have been frozen sinceJanuary 2016 as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

International buyers of Iranian oil have until November 4 to wind downcontracts before the US re-imposes sanctions on the oil, energy, shippingand insurance sectors, a US Treasury Department fact sheet said.

--Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

--Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jeremy Lovell, newsdesk@spglobal.com