US to extend waivers on Iran sanctions

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IOL pic nov15 barack obama press conference Reuters US President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON - The United States is expected to renew waivers on Iran sanctions for Japan and 10 European countries as soon as Wednesday in exchange for their reducing purchases of the OPEC nation's crude oil, U.S. government sources said.

A renewal from the State Department would mean banks in the 11 countries have been given a third consecutive 180-day reprieve from the threat of being cut off from the U.S. financial system under the sanctions designed to slash funding to Iran's disputed nuclear program.

“We expect all those countries to receive exceptions based on continued significant reductions or based on the fact certain countries are already at zero on imports,” one congressional aide said.

The comments were confirmed by a second congressional source.

The West suspects Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is for power generation and medical purposes.

Japan, the world's third largest oil consumer, slashed Iranian imports last year by 40 percent to about 190,000 barrels per day, even as its total oil imports rose 2.7 percent.

The European Union implemented a full embargo on Iranian crude and petroleum products on July 1. The 10 countries expected to get renewals are Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, German, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Under the sanctions law President Barack Obama signed in 2011, the State Department must review the waivers every six months. All of Iran's major buyers of crude were given the waivers last year.

The State Department extended the exceptions to China, India and a number of other countries on December 7. - Reuters)

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