UPDATE 1-Japan Nov crude imports from Iran fall 20.3 pct yr/yr -METI

Reuters Middle East

* Nov Iran crude imports total 182,078 bpd

* Jan-Nov imports average 187,212 bpd, down 40 pct yr/yr

(Adds details)

TOKYO, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Japan's crude oil imports from

Iran in November fell 20.3 percent from a year earlier, data

from the trade ministry showed on Friday, as Japanese refiners

continued to curb shipping in the face of sanctions on the

Middle Eastern country.

Japan, the world's third-biggest oil consumer, imported

868,443 kilolitres (182,078 barrels per day) of Iranian crude

last month, according to data from the Ministry of Economy,

Trade and Industry (METI).

The Islamic Republic is under pressure from U.S. and

European trade and financial restrictions imposed over its

disputed nuclear programme.

The sanctions have led to a sharp drop over the past year in

its oil exports, a major source of revenue for Tehran.

The United States in September renewed waivers on Iranian

sanctions for Japan and 10 European countries because they cut

their purchases of the OPEC nation's crude oil.

Tough sanctions from Washington and Europe to force Iran to

curb its nuclear programme have already cut Iran's oil exports

by more than half this year, costing it more than $5 billion a

month. Tehran says the programme is for civilian purposes.

For the first 11 months of 2012, Japan imported 9,971,090 kl

(187,212 bpd) of Iranian crude, down 40.0 percent from

16,556,375 kl (311,785 bpd) in the same period a year ago,

according to Reuters calculations based on the finance

ministry's data.

Japan's oil imports from Iran may be about 15 percent lower

next year, capped roughly at 160,000 bpd and may possibly be cut

further, Yasushi Kimura, the president of Petroleum Association

of Japan, who also serves as the chairman of JX Nippon Oil &

Energy Corp, told reporters last week.

(1 kl=6.2898 barrels)

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Michael Urquhart)

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