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India halts Iran oil imports under U.S. pressure

India halted oil imports from Iran for the first time in at least a decade in March as New Delhi responded to U.S. pressure to keep its shipments from Tehran within sanction limits during the last month of negotiations on a preliminary nuclear deal.

India is second-biggest buyer of Iranian oil on an annual basis after China, yet it did not take any crude from Tehran in March, according to tanker arrival data from trade sources and ship tracking services on the Thomson Reuters terminal.

Refinery sources in New Delhi told Reuters  this was the first time in at least a decade that no imports were made over the space of a month – indicating how Washington is trying to maximise economic pressure on Tehran regime amid the talks aimed at stopping it from gaining the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb.

“There is pressure from the U.S. on all Asian buyers to stick to the sanctions regime,” said Johannes Benigni, chairman of JBC Energy GmbH in Vienna.

The international sanctions aimed at pressuring the Iranian regime to stop nuclear activities currently restrict Iran’s overall exports to 1 million-1.1 million bpd, with Asian buyers required to keep their purchases near end-2013 levels.