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India's imports of Iran oil in Dec scheduled to rise to most since March - source

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* Total Dec crude loadings at 1.92 mln bpd, down 7 pct m/m

* Top buyer China lifts 608,000 bpd in 2017, followed by India

TOKYO, Jan 16 (Reuters) - India was scheduled to lift its biggest volume of Iranian crude in nine months in December, helping to shore up the OPEC producer's oil exports to Asia last month, said a person with knowledge of the country's tanker loading schedule. Asian buyers were scheduled to lift 1.92 million barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude in December, down 7 percent from the actual loadings in the previous month, the source said. India's scheduled crude oil loadings from Iran, excluding condensate, an ultra-light oil, were about 550,000 bpd last month, up 78 percent from the previous month and the highest since March, according to the source. That more than offset monthly declines in liftings by three other major Asian buyers, China, South Korea and Japan. Details on condensate loadings for December are not yet available. Taiwan also loaded Iranian oil last month. Iran produces 3.8 million bpd of crude and is the third-largest producer of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

December also marked Petronas' scheduled first

purchase of Iranian crude since the Malaysian state oil firm halted Iranian oil imports in 2012 after Western sanctions targeting Tehran's nuclear program made it difficult to pay and ship the oil, according to the person. Petronas bought Iranian Heavy crude in a spot deal, two other sources familiar with the matter said. The tanker Patmos Warrior is discharging close to 300,000 barrels of crude at the Malaysian port of Malacca after loading in Iran, trade flow data on Thomson Reuters Eikon showed. Petronas did not respond to a request for comment. The deal came after Iran offered spot cargoes and reduced official selling prices for December loading to entice buyers.

Iran has roughly more than doubled oil exports from a trough in 2015 after the end of sanctions in January 2016 following an agreement between the United States, Iran and several European nations. But U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to re-impose the sanctions, saying the agreement was bad deal for the U.S.

Iran's position is the nuclear deal is not renegotiable.

The following table shows monthly loadings of crude except condensate at Iranian ports in 1,000 barrels per day to global markets and countries, as well as rough percentage changes from the previous month, according to the source.

Asia Dec Nov pct China 518 683 -24 India 548 308 78 Japan 140 198 -30 South Korea 87 91 -5 Taiwan 65 0 n/a Malaysia 16 0 n/a Total Asia 1,374 1,280 7 Greece 97 103 -6 Italy 161 175 -8 Spain 97 168 -42 Turkey 97 104 -7 Other 97 235 -59 Total Europe 548 784 -30 Total crude exports 1,922 2,065 -7 Iran's offshore storage 65 100 -36

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO and Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)