S.Korea's April Iranian crude oil imports fall 12.1 pct y/y

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With renewed USA sanctions looming against OPEC-member Iran, analysts said crude prices were well supported.

However, imports have fallen this year, partly reflecting a cut in supplies to South Korea by the National Iranian Oil Co due to lower production and the start of a new splitter, sources have said.

"Germany has said it will protect its companies from United States sanctions, Iran has said French oil giant Total has yet to pull out of its fields and all the while it seems the Chinese are ready to fill the void created by the USA", said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Much of the Iran's oil exports head to Asia now, with over than 1.5 million barrels per day sent to the likes of China, Japan, South Korea, and India.

Meanwhile, Iran called for clarity over its nuclear deal with world powers, following US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 pact.

Oil climbed to a three-year high above $79 a barrel in London on heightened political risks in parts of the Middle East following unrest in Gaza and the return of sanctions against Iran.

Brent crude futures LCOc1, the global benchmark for oil prices, were at $78.21 per barrel at 0639 GMT, virtually unchanged from their last close and not far off a three-and-a-half year high of $78.53 a barrel reached the previous session.

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He said that Germany has announced that it will protect its companies against U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran.

The report is the last one before the oil ministers' meeting in Vienna to discuss the oil production ceiling two weeks later.

But Saudi Arabia could still keep supply constrained as it needs higher oil prices to fund its government.

The tightening market has all but eliminated a global supply overhang which depressed crude prices between late 2014 and early 2017.

Supply concerns are also increasing with continuing tensions in parts of the Middle East region.

They'll also be watching the results of Iraq's parliamentary elections, which are expected to be announced Monday and could, according to S&P Global Platts, "reshape its oil ministry and delay output expansion projects in OPEC's second-largest member".

Speaking to analysts, Scaffardi said the lack of Iranian crude supplies would be a problem in terms of prices but not volumes. On the supply side are expectations that as prices continue to rise so will production, including USA oil and shale production.

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