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Japan, South Korea, Turkey, India and China will face pressure to eliminate Iranian oil imports as the US eliminates sanctions waivers in an effort to increase pressure on Tehran one year after Washington left the Iran nuclear deal.

A senior US official told the Financial Times that Michael Pompeo, US secretary of state, would on Monday announce a move to end waivers when they expire in early May. The move is just the latest effort to ratchet up pressure on Iran. Earlier this month, the US took the unprecedented step of branding Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organisation, the first time formally labelling part of a foreign government as terrorists.

The end of waivers comes as oil prices have risen sharply this year, reaching highs above $72 a barrel due to voluntary and involuntary cuts by Opec members that have tightened supply. The market is also watching closely for further losses from turmoil in Venezuela and Libya. The decision was first reported by the Washington Post.

After Mr Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and moved to reimpose sanctions, US officials signalled that the president would not provide exemptions for countries to allow them to import some level of Iranian oil. But the US eventually agreed to provide waivers to a number of countries, partly because the oil market was tight so they were worried about the impact on the American economy.

On Sunday, the senior US official said the administration had decided that conditions in the oil markets now were more conducive to eliminating the waivers. He added that the US had been in negotiations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help offset the impact of taking Iranian oil out of the market.


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