TOKYO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Japanese oil refiner Showa Shell Sekiyu is waiting for guidance from the government on crude imports from Iran before deciding on contractual volumes for the year starting April, its president said on Monday.
Tough U.S. and European sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to halt its nuclear programme has made shipping and paying for Iranian oil difficult, cutting the Middle Eastern country's overall oil exports by more than half in 2012.
'If Japan and the United States agree for a need to strengthen sanctions, we expect a decrease in volumes,' Jun Arai told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference, when asked about Showa Shell's plans for Iran purchases.
Whether the company will further curb Iranian oil imports or keep volumes steady at current levels depends on talks between the United States and Japan, Arai added.
Showa Shell, which counts Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Aramco as its main shareholders, is estimated to have cut its contracted Iranian crude volumes to around 60,000 to 70,000 barrels per day (bpd) for the year ending March 31 from 100,000 bpd a year earlier.
'Even if the volumes were to be cut drastically, that would have no impact on us at all,' Arai said.
He added that the company stood ready to respond no matter what the governments decide without giving any more details.
Japan's crude imports from Iran fell 39.5 percent in 2012 to 189,076 bpd, trade ministry data showed, in line with falls among other Asian buyers as the sanctions bite.
The United States has been granting waivers from financial sanctions to countries that have taken significant steps to cut purchases of Iranian crude. Japan's waiver is up for renewal next month.
Showa Shell is 35 percent owned by Royal Dutch Shell and about 15 percent owned by Saudi Aramco.
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Himani Sarkar) Keywords: SHOWASHELL IRAN/
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