Report: Japan cuts in Iran crude imports could be over 20%

TOKYO - Japan is in final talks with Washington on an agreement on cuts in Iranian crude oil imports that could amount to more than 20 percent a year, the Nikkei business daily reported on Thursday, as Tokyo seeks to win waivers from US sanctions.
Japan and the United States will reach a basic agreement by the end of February, sparing Japan's three main banks that currently handle payments to Iran from penalties, the Washington-datelined report said, without citing sources.
Avoiding sanctions is essential to protect the Japanese financial sector's operations abroad, but cutting oil imports could pose a risk to Japan's economy.
Japan's trade and foreign ministers said on Tuesday Tokyo was close to an agreement with Washington but gave no indication of the size of the cuts in crude imports from Iran. Another Japanese newspaper had earlier reported the two sides would settle on 11 percent.
Cuts of 20 percent would therefore be much larger than anticipated, with Japan's reliance on imports having grown since a 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima radiation crisis. That led to most nuclear reactors at Japanese power plants being shut down.
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