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Iran oil imports fall 16%, long road ahead for any revival

30 September 2013, 19:00

Tokyo - Iran's top four crude buyers cut their purchases by 16 per cent in the first eight months of the year.

Oil shipments set to remain under pressure from sanctions, despite tentative signs of better relations between Tehran and Washington.

Western sanctions have forced China, India, Japan and South Korea to reduce their reliance on Iranian oil, more than halving the OPEC nation's exports since early 2012.

The European Union and the U.S. believe Iran is developing nuclear weapons, while Iran says its programme is for electricity generation.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone, the highest-level contact between the two countries in decades and the culmination of a dramatic shift in tone that began in August.

"It's still a long way to go in terms of supplies of Iranian oil really starting to enter the market," said Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of Sydney-based commodity research firm Barratt's Bulletin.

"You've had (about) 25 years of embargoes and concerns out of the region and that sort of thing will probably weigh on people's minds and not be fixed overnight."

The U.S. cut diplomatic relations with Iran a year after the 1979 revolution that toppled U.S. ally, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. and led to the U.S. hostage crisis in Tehran.

Friday's call between Obama and Rouhani came after earlier remarks by the new Iranian president, who said he wanted talks with major powers on Iran's nuclear programme to yield "tangible results" .

Still, any progress between Tehran and Washington towards a new agreement on Iran's nuclear programme is likely to be slow, difficult and fragile.



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