Time running out for Asian buyers of Iran oil
Reuters / J. Hua & O. Tsukimori

Iran's top crude oil buyers in Asia have just weeks to come up with ways to keep imports flowing without falling foul of the toughest Western sanctions to date against Tehran's oil trade. Solutions have proved elusive so far.

In what could be the first sign of whether Asian crude buyers have found a way around the sanctions, refineries over the next week must start chartering tankers if they intend to receive Iranian crude in July.

South Korea, which has a term import agreement with Iran for 200,000 bpd, plans to halt all imports by the time the ban takes effect, industry sources have said.

Japan could follow suit, unless the government decides to provide sovereign insurance guarantees for oil tankers. Japan is preparing a bill that would enable the government to provide insurance cover.

The U.S. financial sanctions aimed at slashing Iran's oil export revenues and funding for its controversial nuclear program - which Tehran counters is for peaceful purposes - are due to take effect at the end of June.

On July 1
, the European sanctions, which include an EU oil embargo, come into force.

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