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Exclusive: Iran asks Chinese oil buyers to maintain imports after U.S. sanctions -sources

Reuters  |  BEIJING 

By Chen Aizhu

(Reuters) - A at Iran's supplier met Chinese buyers this week to ask them to maintain imports after U.S. sanctions kick in, three people familiar with the matter said, but failed to secure guarantees from the world's biggest consumer of Iranian

The sources told Saeed Khoshrou, at the National Iranian Company (NIOC), held separate meetings in on Monday with top executives at Chinese Sinopec's trading unit and trader to discuss and seek assurances from the Chinese buyers.

Khoshrou was accompanying Iran's in the first stop of a tour of world powers before travelling on to is mounting a last-ditch effort to save a 2015 nuclear deal that has abandoned, with plans to impose unilateral sanctions including strict curbs on Iran's

"During the meeting, Mr. Khoshrou conveyed Mr. Zarif's message that hopes will maintain the levels of imports," said one person briefed on the meetings.

China, the world's top crude oil buyer, imported around 655,000 barrels a day on average from in the first quarter of this year, according to official Chinese customs data - equivalent to more than a quarter of Iran's total exports.

Chinese executives did not make firm commitments but said as companies they will fall in line with Beijing's wishes, the person said. The visit was the NIOC marketing chief's second to this year - he also met with Chinese customers about a month ago.

A second person with direct knowledge of the discussion, said Chinese firms "shared the same hope to maintain purchases", adding companies are still assessing the possible impact of the new sanctions.

The people familiar with the matter declined to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to media.

and Zhuhai Zhenrong declined to comment. NIOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Buyers in - including - and have said they will seek waivers from sanctions during a six-month grace period now in force.

During a visit by Zarif to on Tuesday, European powers vowed to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive without the by trying to keep Iran's oil and investment flowing, but admitted they would struggle to provide the guarantees seeks.

China's foreign ministry said last week it regretted the U.S. decision and called for parties involved to stick to diplomatic approaches to stay on track for full implementation of the 2015 accord.

Between 2012 and 2015, under and U.S. sanctions to curb Iran's nuclear program, Chinese companies took up nearly half of Iran's oil exports, which were slashed by more than half and cost as much as $80 billion in lost revenue.

Sinopec, Asia's top refiner, and together account for close to 90 percent of China's total Iranian group buys the rest.

Apart from supplies under annual contracts, and have been lifting Iranian crude as part of their billions of dollars of investment at Iranian

has less of a banking issue in trading with than some international peers. During previous sanctions Beijing used a domestic bank, of Kunlun Co Ltd, to settle tens of billions dollars worth of with Iran. Most of the transactions were settled in euros and Chinese renminbi.

(Additional reporting by in Singapore; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, May 16 2018. 16:22 IST