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SA suspends Iran crude imports again

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Johannesburg - South Africa suspended all imports of crude oil from Iran for a fifth consecutive month in October, data showed on Friday, as Pretoria continued to steer clear of the shipments because of sanctions.

South Africa used to import a quarter of its crude from Iran, but since June has replaced shipments with crude from other suppliers, especially Saudi Arabia.

Africa's top economy has come under Western pressure to cut the shipments as part of sanctions designed to halt Tehran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The major supplier in October was Saudi Arabia, with shipments of 692 740 tons.

Other crude imports came from Nigeria, Angola, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and Equatorial Guinea, with shipments totalling 1.55 million tons.

Although the United States granted South Africa an exemption from financial sanctions after cuts in Iranian imports, Pretoria is still hampered by European Union sanctions that prevent insurance companies from underwriting Iranian shipments.

The EU has not granted any waivers, even though South Africa has been lobbying Brussels because of the impact of the sanctions on its fuel supplies.

Some South African refineries are designed to treat Iranian-type crude only, and refiners and the government have said the country will be hard-pressed to replace those supplies with other products indefinitely.

Any disruption to crude imports could hit fuel supplies in South Africa, which has suffered shortages in the last year because of strikes and refinery problems.

Refiners in South Africa include Shell, BP, Total, Chevron, petrochemicals group Sasol , and Engen, which is majority-owned by Malaysian state oil group Petronas. - Reuters

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