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Asian imports of Iranian oil hit highest in six months

* Asia imports 1.9 mln bpd in Sep, up 5.1 pct yr/yr

* China monthly imports rise 60 pct to 784,000 bpd

* S.Korean imports hit 5-month high at 504,000 bpd

* Japan imports drop more than 30 pct to 216,000 bpd

* Indian imports down nearly a third at 415,400 bpd

TOKYO, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Imports of Iranian crude by major buyers in Asia rose in September for a third straight month to their highest since March, boosted by a surge in purchases in China and South Korea. China, India, South Korea and Japan imported slightly more than 1.9 million barrels per day (bpd) last month, up 5.1 percent from a year earlier, government and ship-tracking data showed. Their imports rose nearly 20 percent from August. Still, purchases from the Asian buyers remain below highs that were hit earlier this year and last year as Tehran ramped up exports following the lifting of economic sanctions, after it had agreed to constraints on its disputed nuclear programme. Imports by the Asian buyers, which take the bulk of Iran's oil exports, are likely to fall in coming weeks as shipments bound for the region have dropped below 1.5 million bpd for October, a person with knowledge of the Middle Eastern nation's tanker loading schedules told Reuters. Chinese imports from Iran in September rose nearly 60 percent from a year ago to about 784,000 bpd, down from August when China imported the highest monthly amount since 2006, according to data on Reuters Eikon. South Korea's imports rose by nearly a quarter to just over 504,000 bpd, a five-month high. India's imports fell by a third to 415,400 bpd. Imports to Japan, which announced official figures on Tuesday, were down by more than 30 percent at a bit less than 216,000 bpd. The following tables outline Iran crude imports in bpd by Asia's biggest buyers for last month and the year-to-date.

Country Sep-17 Sep-16 yr/yr pct China 784,060 492,500 59.2 India 415,400 615,100 -32.5 Japan 215,564 312,825 -31.1 Korea 504,033 405,833 24.2 Total 1,919,057 1,826,258 5.1 Country Jan-Sept 2017 Jan-Sept 2016 yr/yr pct China 629,026 601,330 4.6 India 488,600 418,800 16.7 Japan 165,391 226,691 -27.0 Korea 423,304 284,697 48.7 Total 1,706,321 1,531,518 11.4

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Tom Hogue)