NEW DELHI - India has to cut its Iranian oil imports by nearly two-thirds from the first quarter after the United States asked it to hold the shipments at end-2013 levels, in keeping with the nuclear deal easing sanctions on Tehran, Indian government sources said.

India, with the increases already made in the January-March loading plans from Iran, has to cut its purchases of the crude to about 110,000 barrels per day (bpd) to drop its intake average to 195,000 bpd for the six months to July 20.

Under the Nov. 24 agreement between Iran and six world powers, the OPEC member was to hold oil exports at "current volumes" of about 1 million bpd, and a message delivered by a top U.S. energy policy official to Indian ministries in February was the first clear sign of low tolerance for any increases.

Since the interim deal was signed, purchases of Iranian oil by its top four buyers - China, India, Japan and South Korea - have been creeping up and together they have taken 1.25 million barrels per day (bpd) in January against a daily average of about 935,900 bpd for all of 2013.

"It is a fact that they (the United States) have asked us that Iran's exports to India should not exceed 195,000 bpd between January to July and we have said that we'll take care of that," said one of the government sources, all of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.


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