Iran snaps up 600,000 tonnes of wheat, pays premium

* Iranian wheat purchases larger than thought * Total includes 200,000 tonne purchase reported earlier this week * Germany one of top wheat suppliers to Iran in 2012/13 (Updates with further comment, detail) By Michael Hogan and Jonathan Saul HAMBURG/LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) - Iran's state grains buyer GTC swept back into international markets, picking up more than half a million tonnes of wheat to shore up domestic stocks as its crop expectations were pared back and to avoid unrest after next week's elections. The purchases included a premium due to sanctions hindering Iran's payments for imports, although money is readily available for food from plentiful oil revenues. Dealers said Iran had bought about 600,000 tonnes of milling wheat from the Baltic Sea region and Germany in the last two weeks, including around 200,000 tonnes purchased on Monday. "I think ... that we will see more wheat purchases from Iran in coming months because of the uncertain crop outlook there," one European trader said. Shipment for the 12.5 percent protein wheat was July, August and September, traders said. The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions aimed at discouraging Tehran's nuclear programme. Iran insists that its atomic programme is for peaceful purposes. The sanctions do not target food or animal feed shipments, but financial measures have frozen Iranian companies out of much of the global banking system, hindering payments for imports. Traders are able to continue food deliveries to Iran using non-dollar payments. Iran has oil revenues amounting to billions of dollars in local currencies frozen in bank accounts in countries such as Turkey and India, which trade sources said were likely to have been tapped for the latest sales. "Iran can use the locked-up funds in bank accounts in one country to buy humanitarian goods including food from any other country," said Mark Dubowitz, who has advised President Barack Obama's administration and U.S. lawmakers on sanctions. "And those humanitarian goods can be purchased directly and shipped to Iran without having to pass through the country where the bank account is located." Dealers said Iran also likely used foreign middle-men for some of the purchases to broker deals and arrange financing. ELECTION LOOMS Iranians will vote on June 14 for a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose re-election four years ago provoked huge protests by reformists who said the result was rigged - a charge denied by the state. Reformists have largely been barred or sidelined from the election. "The purchases are being driven by the elections in Iran and those in power there want to ensure there are sufficient stocks of commodities," a Middle East-based trade source said. "It is also sending a message to Iranians that they will meet the food needs of their people whatever it costs." The source said Iran had paid for the cargoes in multiple currencies for an estimated equivalent price of $350 per tonne, or $210 million. By contrast, Jordan bought wheat on international markets earlier on Thursday, paying $297.50 a tonne. Germany has been one of Iran's top suppliers, exporting 1.087 million tonnes of wheat between July 2012 and the end of March 2013, figures from the German statistics agency showed last month. The International Grains Council currently forecasts Iran's imports will fall to 3.1 million tonnes in 2013/14 from 5.1 million tonnes in the previous year when the country added to its wheat stocks. "I expect imports of over 4 million tonnes," one European exporter said. "There is still a lot of uncertainty with the Iranian crop prospects." Another added: "Iran is still active in the market and we will see them buying more cargoes. The feeling over there is that financing is not an issue for them." (Editing by Veronica Brown and Pravin Char)