July 31, 2012 / 6:03 AM / in 5 years

UPDATE 1-Japan crude imports from Iran rise ahead of EU ban-METI

* June imports rise 56.8 percent over May

* METI figures released after finance ministry data on Monday (Adds year-on-year figures, link to table)

TOKYO, July 31 (Reuters) - Japan’s crude oil imports from Iran in June rose 56.8 percent from a month earlier, trade ministry data showed on Tuesday, as refiners increased loadings before a halt in inflows this month due to EU sanctions.

Japan imported 991,187 kiloliters (207,812 barrels per day) last month from Iran, data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) showed. Imports in June rose 6.8 percent from a year earlier.

Iran’s crude imports to Japan likely stopped flowing this month after buyers halted loadings in early June to avoid running foul of the EU sanctions from July 1 that forbid European insurers from covering tankers carrying Iranian crude anywhere in the world.

Japan’s Ministry of Finance issued customs-cleared imports data on Monday that showed a similar rise in monthly imports from Iran but a year-on-year fall.

The oil industry considers METI data as a benchmark because it tracks the actual import status of oil tankers.

U.S. lawmakers on Monday moved closer to finalizing new sanctions aimed at further restricting Iran’s oil revenues after negotiators from the Senate and House of Representatives agreed on a compromise bill.

The bill included new sanctions on sales of any goods or services to Iran’s oil and gas sector, including insurance and reinsurance, and would hurt Iran’s ability to do barter trades or oil-for-gold swaps to sell its oil cargoes.

The United States and Europe are trying to squeeze the revenue Iran makes from oil exports in order to force it to halt a nuclear programme they fear will be used to make weapons, but which Tehran says is for power generation. (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Ed Davies)

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