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. Japan to oppose sanctions on Iranian oil: report
TOKYO, Aug 21 (AFP) Aug 21, 2006
Japan, which is almost entirely dependent on Middle Eastern oil, will oppose United Nations sanctions on Iran's energy sector over its nuclear program, a newspaper said Monday.

Tokyo will propose that any sanctions initially avoid touching Iran's oil exports, of which Japan is the biggest overseas buyer, the Yomiuri Shimbun said, quoting unnamed sources.

"The government hopes to avoid losing oil supplies from Iran, which account for about 14 percent of total oil imports," the top-selling daily said.

The position could put Japan at odds with its closest ally, the United States, with which it has worked closely to punish neighboring North Korea for its nuclear drive and missile tests.

Japan in 2004 signed a two billion-dollar contract to develop Azadegan, Iran's largest onshore oil field, and has resisted US calls to suspend the project.

"The government concluded that economic sanctions are inevitable as a means to apply international pressure on Iran," the Yomiuri said.

"However, a ban on Iranian oil exports would deal a blow to the global and Iranian economies, so the government decided to propose that financial sanctions be imposed first and the oil embargo be shelved for the time being."

Iran has said it would respond by Tuesday to a package of incentives offered by major powers to freeze its enrichment of uranium.

Tehran risks sanctions if it fails to abide by a UN Security Council resolution calling for a halt to the enrichment, which creates fuel for nuclear power plants but can also be used to make the core of a bomb.

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