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Japan expects limited impact from U.S. move to scrap Iran oil sanctions waivers

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Japan expects limited impact from U.S. move to scrap Iran oil sanctions waivers
FILE PHOTO - JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp's refinery is pictured in Yokohama, Japan February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon   -   Copyright  Kim Kyung Hoon(Reuters)
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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan expects a limited impact from the U.S. decision not to renew waivers it had previously granted on Iran oil import sanctions, trade and industry minister Hiroshige Seko said on Tuesday.

The United States on Monday demanded all buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, a move to choke off Tehran’s oil revenues which sent crude prices to six-month highs. Japan is among a group of countries that were previously granted sanctions waivers.

Speaking at a regular press conference, minister Seko told reporters the Japanese government did not see any need to tap national oil reserves following the U.S. decision.

Japan, the world’s fourth-biggest oil consumer, has been reducing its reliance on Iranian crude supplies. Iran now accounts for about 3 percent of purchases, Seko said.

“We will closely watch international oil markets and exchange views with Japanese companies involved in crude imports and may consider taking necessary measures,” he said, declining to give details.

The United States reimposed sanctions on exports of Iranian oil last November following U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to unilaterally pull out of a 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Eight economies, including China and India as well as Japan, were granted waivers for six months, and several had expected those exemptions to be renewed.

Japanese refineries earlier put a halt on imports of Iranian oil after buying 15.3 million barrels between January and March ahead of the expiry of the waiver on U.S. sanctions, according to industry sources and data on Refinitiv Eikon.

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Richard Pullin and Kenneth Maxwell)

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