U.S. extends Iran sanctions waivers to Japan

WASHINGTON Fri Sep 6, 2013 3:32pm EDT

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has extended a waiver on Iran sanctions for six months to Japan in exchange for its reduction in oil imports from the Islamic republic, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday.

The sanctions aim to choke funding to Iran's disputed nuclear program by reducing the country's oil sales, its main source of income. Washington believes Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons, and it has worked with the country's main oil consumers to find alternative petroleum supplies.

Tehran says the nuclear program is just for generating electricity and medical purposes.

The United States also extended a waiver of the sanctions to 10 countries of the European Union, but the EU has embargoed Iran's oil imports since July 2012.

It was the fourth time Washington extended the six-month waiver to the 11 countries. The move was expected as Japan has cut its imports of Iranian oil, which in June were down 38.1 percent from a year earlier, government data showed.

The State Department will decide in December whether to extend waivers to China, India, South Korea and six other countries that consume Iranian oil.

"We have brought significant pressure to bear on the Iranian government," Kerry said in a statement, "and we will continue to work with our partners to ratchet up the pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations."

Iran's average monthly oil sale revenues dropped 58 percent to $3.4 billion in the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2011, which was just before Washington imposed harsher sanctions on Tehran, a senior U.S. official said last week.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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