September 15, 2012 - 12:59 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The United States has renewed waivers on Iran sanctions for Japan and 10 European countries because they cut their purchases of the OPEC nation's crude oil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, according to Reuters.
The renewal means banks in the 11 countries have been given a second 180 day reprieve from the threat of being cut off from the U.S. financial system under the sanctions designed to choke funding to Iran's nuclear program.
The West suspects Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran insists the program is for civilian purposes.
The sanctions law President Barack Obama signed in 2011 requires a review every six months of the waivers, which were given to all of Iran's major buyers throughout 2012.
Japan, the world's third largest oil consumer, had taken significant steps to reduce purchases of Iranian crude, Clinton said.
The cuts were "especially notable considering the extraordinary energy challenges" Japan faced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, she said in a statement. Since then, Japan has had to burn more diesel fuel.
In March, Japan was the first of Asia's top four buyers of Iranian crude to receive a U.S. waiver from the sanctions.
Since then Japan has made deeper cuts in crude purchases from Iran.
The State Department renewed exemptions on Friday, September 14 to Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The European Union implemented a full embargo on Iranian crude and petroleum products on July 1.
The combination of U.S. and European sanctions has forced Iran to cut its oil output and almost halve exports.
Since it won its first waiver, Japan has cut imports each month by more than a quarter except for an increase of 6.8 percent in June. It completely halted shipments in July.
The United States next granted waivers to South Korea and India on June 11. Their renewals are due in December.
Since Washington issued those exemptions, official data from Seoul has shown imports fell by a quarter in June and by 42 percent in July and may halt in August.
The decline was spurred by European Union sanctions banning insurance coverage for ships carrying Iranian oil. While South Korea's shipments are expected to recover in September as Seoul asks Iran to ship the oil, three months of sharp cuts put the country in a strong position to secure a renewal come December.