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Screws tighten on Iran as big buyers shun its oil

Screws tighten on Iran as big buyers shun its oil
By Robin Pomeroy

TEHRAN | Thu Jan 5, 2012 9:11pm EST

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran faced the prospect of cutbacks in its oil sales to China and Japan as new measures to block Tehran’s crude exports over its nuclear program appeared to be driving its economy to the wall.

The developments in Asia on Thursday followed news 24 hours earlier that EU leaders had agreed to halt European purchases of Iranian crude.

China, Iran’s biggest trade partner, had already cut its purchases of Iranian oil by more than half this month and would extend the cuts to February, a Beijing-based trader who deals with Iranian oil said.

Japan would consider cutbacks in its Iranian oil purchases to secure a waiver from new U.S. sanctions signed into law on New Year’s Eve by President Barack Obama, a government source said.

Between them, China, the EU and Japan buy about half of Iran’s exports of 2.6 million barrels of oil per day.

International sanctions that for years had little effect are for the first time having a real impact on day-to-day life in Iran, where the rial currency has tumbled and people have rushed to convert savings into dollars.

Iran is two months from a parliamentary election, the country’s first since a disputed presidential vote in 2009 led to massive public demonstrations across the country

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