Obama visit fallout? India tells refiners to cut Iran oil imports

Ahead of US President Barak Obama's visit, India has asked its refiners to slash oil purchases from Iran for the next two months to keep the imports in line with the previous fiscal year's levels, says a Reuters report citing sources.

India has raised its crude shipments from Iran around 40 per cent over the first nine months of the current financial year, when as part of the temporary deal that eased some sanctions on Tehran it was meant to hold them steady.

India and the United States will discuss the status of the Iran nuclear negotiations, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor in the White House, told reporters in a teleconference detailing Obama's visit.

India's higher imports from Iran would also be on the agenda, the two sources in India said.

"The refiners will have to virtually halt Iranian oil imports in February-March to retain purchases at last year's levels," said one of the sources with knowledge of the matter.

India's imports from Iran rose 41 per cent to 250,200 bpd in April-December compared with the same period a year ago, according to tanker arrival data.

One of the sources said India's oil ministry told Essar Oil, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd, and Indian Oil - the Indian companies that buy from Iran - to cut imports.

Iran and six major world powers will meet next month to narrow differences over Tehran's nuclear programme after making limited progress earlier in January to clinch a full blown deal by June 30 deadline.

MRPL and Essar declined to comment on any requests to cut purchases from Iran. IOC's finance head did not respond to phone calls.