Japan backs Iranian sanctions

Japan’s Finance Minister Jun Azumi told US Sec. of the Treasury Timothy Geithner that his country would take “concrete steps” to reduce its oil dependency on Iran.

“We want to take concrete steps to reduce our share in an orderly way as soon as possible. We wish to take planned steps to further reduce this share, which now stands at 10%,” Azumi said.

“The world cannot tolerate nuclear development,” said Azumi, adding that he told Geithner that Japan has already reduced Iranian oil imports by 40% in the past 5 years.

“We are working very, very closely together and we very much appreciate the support Japan has provided in standing with us and the international community in supporting this very important strategic objective,” Geithner said.

Geither said the US will send a team to Japan next week to discuss the imposition of sanctions on Iran.

“We have a range of operational questions we're starting to work through with them,” he said.

Japan, meanwhile, has sent Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba to the Middle East this week to urge the major oil-producing countries of the region—Saudi Arabia and the UAE—to increase their crude production.

China launched a similar mission this week, with Premier Wen Jiabao’s 6-day trip seeking to bolster energy ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as Qatar—now Beijing’s top supplier of LNG.

In the European Union, now the second-biggest buyer of Iran’s oil after China, diplomats said governments are moving closer to an agreement on an embargo of Iran’s oil that would give companies 6 months to phase out contracts with Iran.

“It looks as though we’re going to settle on a 6-month transition period,” one EU diplomat told AFP, adding that more negotiations were scheduled for the coming days.

Another EU diplomat told the agency that by allowing Europeans to continue accepting oil for debt repayments, Tehran would have less crude to sell on the market.

“An agreement on this is quite likely because it would make the Iranians poorer,” the diplomat said.

The reports from Europe coincided with an announcement that Abu Dhabi has set May as the start of trial operations of a pipeline that will bypass the Strait of Hormuz to transport crude directly to the Indian Ocean.

International Petroleum Investment Co. said the 370-km line would transport 1.4 million b/d of Murban crude from Abu Dhabi’s main onshore oil facilities once fully commissioned.

“Capacity could be raised later to 1.8 million b/d, accounting for more than 70% of Abu Dhabi's output,” said the emirate’s semiofficial Alittihad newspaper.

While part of Saudi Arabia’s oil exports pass through Hormuz, almost all crude exports by the UAE and other gulf countries flow through the narrow strait. Oman is the only gulf nation outside Hormuz.

Abu Dhabi exports more than 2 million b/d of oil and nearly 7 million tonnes/year of LNG.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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