* Clinton says latest data shows China cuts taking place
* China has yet to win reprieve from planned U.S. sanctions
* U.S. seeking to pressure Iran without roiling markets
By Andrew Quinn
WASHINGTON, June 20 China is moving to cut its
imports of Iranian oil, tracking earlier efforts by countries
such as India, Japan and South Korea which won them exemptions
from tough new U.S. sanctions, Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton said on Wednesday.
The United States has already exempted a number of major
countries from the new sanctions, which it may impose starting
on June 28 as Washington's most ambitious measure yet to force
Iran to curtail its nuclear program by reducing its oil export
China, which alone buys as much as a fifth of Iran's crude
exports, has not yet been granted a similar reprieve, but
Clinton hinted on Wednesday that one could be in the works.
"We've seen China slowly but surely take actions," Clinton
said in an appearance with former U.S. Secretary of State James
Baker, detailing the U.S.-led effort to sanction Iran for its
"I have to certify under American laws whether or not
countries are reducing their purchases of crude oil from Iran
and I was able to certify that India was, Japan was, South Korea
was," Clinton said.
"And we think, based on the latest data, that China is also
moving in that direction," Clinton said.
PLEDGING TO CUT PURCHASES
The United States and the European Union believe Iran is
trying to build nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is
strictly for civilian purposes.
Beyond the 27-country EU, which has banned Iranian imports
from July under separate sanctions, other buyers of Iran's crude
have pledged to cut purchases by up to a fifth.
Turkey, South Africa, Taiwan, Malaysia and Sri Lanka will
also be exempt from the sanctions, while 10 EU countries had
been granted exceptions in March.
Banks and other institutions in the economies that received
waivers will be given a six-month break from the threat of being
cut off from the U.S. financial system under sanctions signed
late last year by President Barack Obama.
China, Japan, India and South Korea cut imports by about a
fifth from the 1.45 million barrels per day they were buying a
year ago as they prepared for the sanctions to come into effect.
Analysts say Obama must tread a fine line between tightening
the screws on Tehran and triggering a squeeze on global oil
supplies that could tip the U.S. economy back into recession.
Backers of tough sanctions on Tehran believe China has
received clandestine cargoes of oil from Iran, which has
disabled tracking devices on some of its shipments.
Obama is under pressure from Congress, which may pass even
tougher sanctions on Iran. U.S. officials say the dialogue with
China - a key U.S. trading partner - has been constructive,
leading many to believe that China will eventually win an
(Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Editing by Eric Walsh)