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Japan Still Has No Iran Sanctions Waiver After Talks With U.S. Officials

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga shake hands at Prime Minister's office in Tokyo Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Pompeo has arrived in Tokyo for talks with Japanese officials ahead of his trip to North
TOKYO, Nov 1 (Reuters)

Japan has not yet been granted a waiver from Washington's plan to reimpose sanctions to cut Iran out of international markets, even after several rounds of talks with U.S. officials, the Asian nation's top government spokesman said on Thursday.

The Trump administration has said it is considering waivers on sanctions for countries that are reducing their imports of Iranian oil on a case-by-case basis. The renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran are set to come into effect on Nov. 5.

"Japan-U.S. talks have been conducted four times so far on U.S. sanctions on Iran," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

"The Japanese side has asked that the impact would not affect the activities of Japanese companies. I'd like to refrain from further comments on the details of the talks."

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday the Trump administration wants sanctions on Iran's crude exports to strain Tehran, but does not want to harm countries that depend on the oil.

India also hopes to secure a waiver, as it has significantly cut Iranian oil imports ahead of the deadline, officials there said last month.

A Japanese oil market analyst who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter said the chances for Japan winning a waiver would increase if India was granted one.

The Japanese government and industry officials were hopeful of winning an exemption, said the analyst.

A senior Japanese trade ministry official on Thursday declined to provide any further details.

Japan joined South Korea in temporarily halting Iranian oil loadings, but three of Iran's top five customers – India, China, and Turkey - are resisting the call to end purchases outright, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Japan imported about 172,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude last year, down 24.2 percent from 2016, and accounting for 5.3 percent of total, trade ministry data showed.

Japan has cut Iranian imports significantly from nearly 315,000 bpd in 2011, the year before the previous international sanctions on Iran were imposed.

Japan won waivers from the previous sanctions that allowed it to buy limited amounts of oil from Iran before the restrictions ended in 2016.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori and Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Tom Hogue)