Japan's JX: no problem with paying Iran for oil now
(Reuters) - Japan's top oil refiner, JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp, is not facing a problem paying Iran for crude imports, the company said on Thursday, after a major Japanese bank froze transactions with Iranian banks on the order of a U.S. court.
Japan's Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ said it had frozen Iranian assets and transactions with Iranian banks after being ordered to do so early this month by the New York District Court.
The step is a consequence of a U.S. court decision in 2007 that ordered Iran to pay more than $2.6 billion to survivors and family members of victims of the 1983 bombing of a marine barracks in Lebanon.
A JX Nippon Oil spokesman said there was no problem with payment to Iran at the moment, but declined to discuss other details, including whether it was considering an alternative payment mechanism.
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ handles the bulk of Japan's oil-related payment to the Islamic nation, with the rest handled by Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, sources said.
JX Nippon Oil, part of JX Holdings, has already made arrangements to buy Iranian oil in April and May despite curbs on reinsurance coverage, and is in talks for June lifting, the company's President Yasushi Kimura told the Reuters Global Energy & Environment Summit.
Besides JX Nippon, Japan's top buyer of Iranian crude, Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, and Cosmo Oil have already renewed term deals to lift Iranian crude from April, industry sources have said.
Only JX and Showa Shell have plans to lift Iranian oil in April and May among the Japanese oil firms, industry sources have said.
Showa Shell was not immediately available for comment.
Japanese crude buyers pay Iran a month after the crude is loaded on a vessel at an Iranian port, industry sources said.
The U.S. Senate will consider new Iran sanctions on Thursday with the chamber's Democratic leader, Harry Reid, set to seek approval of a new package of oil and economic sanctions aimed at further pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear program, a Democratic leadership aide told Reuters.