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Japan Doubles Russian Oil Imports

TOKYO — Japan's imports of crude oil from Russia almost doubled in August from a year earlier, helping reduce the country's reliance on Middle East supplies for the second month in a row from levels a year ago.

Monthly data by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry also showed Thursday that Japan imported 31 percent less crude from Iran at 1.42 million kiloliters in August, versus a year ago, making it the sixth-largest supplier.

The drop underlined concerns about increasing pressure by the United States on Iran over Tehran's nuclear program as Inpex, Japan's top oil explorer, is seen likely to withdraw from Iran's Azadegan oil field project.

Russia, by contrast, rose to become the fourth-biggest supplier to Japan, its highest ranking since the country across the Sea of Japan started selling its new ESPO Blend crude from the Far East port of Kozmino in late 2009.

In July, Iran was the third-largest and Russia the fifth-largest supplier to Japan, the world's third-biggest oil consumer.

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