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China’s Iran Crude Imports Rise to Highest Since Sanctions

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- China’s imports of crude from Iran rose to the highest level since the West increased sanctions on the Persian Gulf nation in July.

China, the world’s second-biggest crude consumer, purchased 1.94 million metric tons of oil from Iran last month, according to figures from the General Administration of Customs today. That’s equivalent to 458,000 barrels a day, the highest level since June and up 19 percent from September’s 384,000 barrels a day, the data show. Shipments fell 23 percent from October 2011.

The European Union and the U.S. imposed sanctions to pressure Iran to curtail its nuclear program. An EU ban that started July 1 on insurance of vessels carrying Iranian crude curbed shipments to Asia as 95 percent of the world’s tankers are covered in the bloc. South Korea resumed purchases from Iran last month, after halting them in August and September, as the Persian Gulf nation offered to use its own ships.

China, which is Iran’s biggest customer, cut total crude imports from the country so far this year even after criticizing the sanctions. Purchases declined 22 percent to 17.73 million tons in the first 10 months from a year earlier, according to today’s data.

Buying oil from the Islamic republic is “completely justified and legitimate,” Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said June 29 in Beijing. China was granted a 180-day exemption from the U.S. penalties, which place sanctions on banks that process payments for Iranian oil, after it “significantly reduced” its purchases, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said June 28.

Iran accounted for 8.2 percent of China’s 5.6 million barrels a day of crude imports in October, compared with 7.8 percent in September, and was the country’s fifth-largest supplier, today’s data show.

To contact the reporters on this story: Winnie Zhu in Singapore at wzhu4@bloomberg.net; Jing Yang in Shanghai at jyang251@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexander Kwiatkowski at akwiatkowsk2@bloomberg.net

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