UPDATE 1-Turkey buys a third less Iranian crude oil in December
DUBAI Feb 14 (Reuters) - Turkey imported 29 percent less Iranian crude oil in December than November, data from the Turkish energy watchdog showed, as the country followed a pledge to cut purchases as part of western trade sanctions against Iran.
Iranian crude imports dropped to 82,849 barrels per day (bpd) or 350,385 tonnes from November's 116,000 bpd or 474,784 tonnes, according to data from EPDK.
This brought Turkey's total Iranian oil imports to 7.56 million tonnes in 2012, or 151,829 barrels per day (bpd), a drop of around 15 percent from 2011 and from volumes contracted with Iran, which were around 180,000 bpd.
Once reliant on Iran for more than half its crude oil imports, Turkey has reduced its purchases as the United States and European Union have tightened sanctions on the trade with Tehran.
Turkey obtained an initial waiver from the United States on Iranian oil imports for 180 days from June 11 after Ankara made an initial 20 percent import cut before the EU sanctions came into effect last July. The exemption was renewed in early December for another 180 days.
The United States and many of its allies say Iran is enriching uranium for weapons purposes, while Iran says its programme is for peaceful purposes.
Iranian oil has fallen to 39 percent of Turkey's total crude oil purchases from 49 percent in 2011, according to data from Turkish Statistics Office and the energy watchdog. The statistics office stopped providing a country-by-country breakdown for crude oil imports at the end of 2012.
Turkey made it clear it will not stop buying Iranian oil, but it has intensified efforts to diversify its suppliers.
Its imports from OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Iraq have increased as Iranian supplies have fallen, making the two countries Turkey's biggest suppliers after Iran.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said in early January that Turkey was seeking to raise its crude imports from Libya to 10 million barrels a year from the current 7 million.
From September through November, Turkey's Iranian crude oil purchases were steady around 100,000 bpd, according to Reuters calculations and trade data.