US exempts Japan, 10 EU nations from Iran oil sanctions

The Obama administration yesterday granted exemption from US economic sanctions to 11 of the 23 countries that are importers of Iranian crude, for having made substantial reductions in their oil purchases from Iran.

Hillary ClintonThe remaining countries have till 28 June to demonstrate that they ''significantly reduced'' the volume of their Iranian crude purchases -- or their banks that settle oil trades with Iran may be cut off from the US financial system.

The exempted countries are Japan, the second-largest importer of Iranian crude after China, and 10 from the EU - Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.

The EU had already backed the US sanctions and its members have been scaling down their imports of Iranian crude.

Japan, however, which has been suffering massive power cuts due to a large number of its nuclear plants being  idled, was forced to rely on imported crude for its power plants. However it cut its imports of Iranian oil by 15 per cent to 22 per cent in the second half of last year.

Yesterday's announcemnet will enable Japan to continue buying some Iranian oil after US sanctions take effect without exposing its banks to penalties