February 3, 2012 / 8:01 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Japan's JX looks also to Africa for oil on Iran worries

* JX in talks with West African nations - executive

* Japan, U.S. have not reached deal on Iran import cuts (Adds details)

TOKYO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Japan’s biggest refiner, JX Holdings, is in talks with African nations in addition to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other oil producers to replace crude oil imports from Iran, a company executive said on Friday.

Japan is under pressure from the United States to cut back on Iranian oil imports to secure a waiver from a U.S. law imposing sanctions on financial institutions that trade with Iran’s central bank.

JX’s negotiations with Africa are mostly with West African nations, Kiyonobu Sugiuchi, a senior managing executive officer, told Reuters after a news conference.

A delegation from Japan’s government held one-day talks in Washington on Thursday as part of ongoing consultations with the United States but did not reach an agreement.

“We have not received detailed instructions (from the government) about the reduction,” Sugiuchi, who did not attend the bilateral meeting in Washington, told reporters.

JX has not yet reached an agreement to get any replacement crude from oil producers, he said.

“From the point of view of today’s global supply/demand, it may not be that difficult to (secure alternatives),” he added.

JX, which buys 90,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude, accounting for 7 to 8 percent of its total imports, is believed to be Japan’s second biggest buyer of Iranian oil after Showa Shell Sekiyu.

Japan’s crude imports from Iran in 2011 fell 11.7 percent to 314,000 barrels per day, government data showed on Tuesday. By contrast, South Korea’s Iranian crude imports rose 20 percent and China imported 30 percent more last year.

Iranian crude accounted for 8.8 percent of Japan’s total imports in 2011, down from 9.6 percent in 2010. Iran is the fourth-biggest crude supplier to Japan.

Japan’s crude imports from Iran have been falling steadily in recent years. Last year’s imports were down by more than half compared with 683,000 bpd in 2003. (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Chris Gallagher)

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