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India's Feb Iranian oil imports fall 36 pct versus Jan- trade

NEW DELHI, March 13 (Reuters) - India imported about 36 percent less oil from Iran in February than in January, because of efforts to meet U.S. requests to restrict purchases from Tehran to 195,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the six months to July 20, data from trade sources showed.

Washington last month asked New Delhi to limit Iranian oil imports to about 195,000 bpd after India and China sharply raised imports in January.

India shipped in about 266,000 bpd oil from Iran last month, a decline of about 8.7 percent from a year ago, tanker arrival data compiled by Reuters showed.

Tehran and Western world powers have agreed a deal, running from Jan. 20 to July 20, that requires Iran to curb its nuclear programme in return for a calibrated release of $4.2 billion it is owed in back payments for its oil.

The Nov. 24 agreement was also aimed at holding Tehran's oil exports at "current volumes" of about 1 million bpd but in January Iran's four top clients, including Japan and South Korea, together took 1.25 million bpd.

Tough international sanctions over the past two years have cut Iran's oil exports in half, measures that starved it of hard currency and helped lead it to the nuclear deal last November.

India lifted about 351,800 bpd from Iran in February and March loading could be about 272,250 bpd, taking overall purchases in the first quarter to about 322,200 bpd, according to Indian government sources. Lifting and arrival data varies as the voyage from Iran to India takes about eight or nine days.

A government official in January had said India would be importing about 180,000 to 190,000 bpd oil from Iran in 2014/15 if sanctions remain.

But a recent spurt in purchases means refiners will have to cut imports to about 110,000 bpd in April-July 20 to meet the U.S. request.

India aims to import 10.7 million tonnes or 214,000 bpd from Iran in this fiscal year ending March 31, a decline of about 19 percent from a year ago and about 3 percent less than the targeted 220,000 bpd, government sources said earlier this week.

During April-February India, Iran's top client after China, shipped in about 206,800 bpd oil from Tehran, a decline of about 24.5 percent from a year earlier, the data showed.

To replace lost Iranian volumes, India imported about 14 percent more oil from Latin America in the April-February period, with the region accounting for about 19 percent of overall imports, up from about 17.5 percent a year ago.

The Middle East supplied about 62.3 percent of India's oil imports in April-February, slightly higher that the year ago period.

Overall, India imported about 4.25 million bpd of oil in February, a decline of about 0.3 percent from a year earlier.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Anthony Barker)