(Repeats story to follow corrected Update 1)
By Sami Aboudi
ABU DHABI Jan 10 Japan has asked Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to supply it with more
oil, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said on Tuesday,
as tighter Western sanctions threaten to reduce its oil imports
Japan is considering cutting its Iranian oil purchases to
secure a waiver from the new U.S. sanctions on the Islamic
Republic over its disputed nuclear programme.
Foreign minister Gemba has been on a visit to Turkey and
Gulf Arab countries since last week in what some analysts said
could be a sign that Tokyo is seeking assurances from Gulf
producers that they would compensate for any potential loss of
"We want an increase in the quantity of oil that Japan needs
(from these countries)," Gemba, speaking through an interpreter,
said at a joint news conference in Abu Dhabi with United Arab
Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan.
A spokesman for the Japanese foreign ministry, Masaru Sato,
declined to discuss the quantities of extra oil sought by Japan
but said a team of technical experts was to travel to Saudi
Arabia and the UAE to discuss the details.
Sheikh Abdullah said the UAE, a major oil exporter, has the
capacity to produce extra oil and is ready to give priority to
Japan, one of the Gulf Arab state's main trading partners with
some $35 billion.
"Part of developing this relationship is to provide energy
to Japan. The UAE has the capacity to provide more energy. The
UAE has taken this request in a positive way.
Tensions in the Strait of Hormuz - the world's most
important oil shipping lane - have risen in recent weeks after
Iran threatened to block the narrow strip of water, through
which producers Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and the UAE rely to
supply customers around the world.
Japan, which depends on energy imports, is one of the
biggest buyers of oil produced in the Gulf.
The West is considering imposing sanctions on Iranian oil
exports over its disputed nuclear program, prompting Iran's
threat to close the Strait if its oil exports are disrupted.
Gemba urged Tehran to refrain from any what he described as
"Iran must not threaten the safety of Strait of Hormuz,"
Gemba said. "Japan is concerned about the situation."
Japan imports around 25 percent of its oil from the UAE, 30
percent from top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and around 10 percent
from Qatar, another producer entirely dependent on the Strait of
Hormuz to ship its crude exports.
OPEC member UAE pumped around 2.6 million barrels per day
(bpd) in December, leaving it with a spare capacity of around
Sheikh Abdullah also said protecting energy export routes
was an international responsibility and that it was in Iran's
interests, as well as Gulf Arab oil exporters, to maintain oil
"We have heard varying comments from Iran. At first, we
heard statements about closing the Strait (of Hormuz), but we
also heard denials. I hope this language (of reason) prevails,"
(Reporting by Sami Aboudi, Writing by Humeyra Pamuk,; editing
by Daniel Fineren and Jane Baird)