Asia's Feb imports of Iran oil hit 2-year high

* Asian imports of Iran oil at 1.28 mln bpd last month
    * Imports by India, South Korea roughly double yr/yr
    * Iran exports have risen to 2.2 mln bpd -Iran official

    By Osamu Tsukimori
    TOKYO, March 31 (Reuters) - Asian imports of Iranian oil
jumped nearly a quarter from a year earlier to a two-year high
in February, as shipments into India and South Korea roughly
doubled weeks after international sanctions were lifted on
Tehran's disputed nuclear programme.
    International oil and shipping companies have been eager to
renew business with Iran since sanctions related to its nuclear
programme were lifted in January. Tehran's exports may also get
further support as progress has been made on reinsurance issues
that had been hampering its oil trade.    
    Aside from the greater volumes taken by Asian buyers, Iran's
oil flows to Europe have also begun to pick up after a slow
start. An Iranian official said last week that exports had risen
by 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 2.2 million bpd in the past
two months.  
    Imports by Iran's top four buyers - China, India, Japan and
South Korea - came to 1.28 million bpd in February, up 24.6
percent from a year ago, government and tanker-tracking data
shows. That was the highest volume taken by Tehran's four
biggest oil clients since they bought 1.37 million bpd in
February 2014. 
    Iran has been seeking to ramp up exports to regain market
share and help boost an economy that stagnated under the
restrictions related to its nuclear programme. 
    The sanctions kept Iran's exports at around 1 million bpd -
down from an average 2.5 million bpd in 2011 - and have been
credited with forcing Tehran to the negotiating table over its
disputed nuclear activities. 
    India's imports last month grew 111.1 percent to 215,800
bpd, the most since December. South Korea's imports hit a
two-year high of 282,000 bpd. Imports by China and Japan were
mostly steady from a year earlier.
    The following tables show Asia's Iran crude imports in bpd
for last month and the year to date.
 Nation          Feb-16     Feb-15  yr/yr pct
 China          537,969    532,355           1.1
 India          215,800    102,200         111.1
 Japan          239,088    244,055          -2.0
 Korea          282,207    144,393          95.4
 Total        1,275,064  1,023,003          24.6
    Nation  Jan-Feb 2016  Jan-Feb 2015  yr/yr pct
     China      470,864       499,016        -5.6
     India      192,500       192,200         0.1
     Japan      215,821       207,943         3.8
     Korea      244,183       102,339       138.6
     Total    1,123,368     1,001,498        12.2

 (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Tom Hogue)