UPDATE 1-S.Korea's Nov Iranian oil imports up, but still meet sanctions waiver target

Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:00pm EST

* Imports 532,851 T or 130,193 bpd Iran crude in Nov

* June-Nov imports of Iran crude at 125,769 bpd

* S.Korea achieved U.S. sanction waiver in November

* Total Nov crude imports at 10.2 mln T, down 7.9 pct y/y

By Meeyoung Cho and Jane Chung

SEOUL, Dec 15 (Reuters) - South Korea's Iranian crude imports rose in November from October, but still met a target of a 15 percent cut in shipments for June-November, which ensured it secured an extension of a U.S. sanctions waiver.

The U.S. State Department extended a six-month Iranian sanctions' waiver at the end of November to China, India, South Korea and other countries as a reward for them reducing purchases of Iranian crude oil earlier this year.

The waiver extension came after the United States and five other global powers, known as the P5+1, agreed in Geneva to pause efforts to reduce Iran's crude oil sales, allowing consuming countries to continue buying their "current average amounts of crude oil."

It is not yet clear the level of oil imports allowed from December onwards, as U.S. guidelines are awaited.

South Korea imported 532,851 tonnes of Iranian crude last month, or 130,193 barrels per day (bpd), up 26.7 from October, but down 34.6 from a year earlier, preliminary customs data showed on Sunday.

That makes South Korea's crude imports from Iran for June-November 125,769 bpd, according to Reuters calculations, meeting the 125,814 bpd sanctions waiver target.

Seoul has vowed to slash Iranian oil imports by 15 percent from the 148,016 bpd imported in December 2012 to May 2013, two sources told Reuters in June.

South Korea's Iranian crude imports vary from month to month as one of the two Korean refiners that buys from Iran receives oil only every other month. Imports unexpectedly jumped in July from a year earlier before dropping off again in August.

SK Energy and Hyundai Oilbank are the only South Korean refiners that take Iranian oil on a regular basis.

South Korea, the world's fifth-largest crude buyer, imported a total of 10.2 million tonnes of crude last month against 11.1 million tonnes in November 2012, data from the Korea Customs Service also showed on Sunday.

Final data for South Korea's crude oil imports last month will be published by state-run Korea National Oil Corp later this month.

(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho and Jane Chung; Editing by Michael Perry)

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