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Hindustan Petroleum may buy Iranian oil if India secures sanctions waiver

A worker walks atop a tanker wagon to check the freight level at an oil terminal on the outskirts of Kolkata, in this November 27, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - State-run Indian refiner Hindustan Petroleum said it may resume buying Iranian oil if New Delhi secures a waiver from U.S. sanctions, its chairman M K Surana said on Thursday.

India is Iran's top oil client after China and hopes to get a waiver on U.S. sanctions before they take effect on Sunday, after significantly reducing its oil imports from Iran.

"Why not?" Surana told a press conference, when asked if his firm would look at resuming oil imports from Iran if India gets a waiver.

"Iranian crude is not a significant item in our crude basket. Depending on the situation we will see. It's an economic evaluation for us, if there are no boundary lines drawn, and it makes economic sense, it will be bought."

An Indian government source told Reuters that the United States could announce a waiver for New Delhi on Sunday. The source said India would soon sign an initial agreement with Iran to start paying for oil in Indian rupees through UCO bank.

India would continue to buy Iranian oil in the current fiscal year to March but to secure the waiver may agree to further cut purchases, the source said.

The United States is imposing new sanctions on Iran's oil industry after Washington withdrew from a nuclear deal between Tehran and other global powers.

After the latest round of U.S. sanctions was announced, HPCL was the first Indian refiner to halt purchases from Iran after its insurer backed out.

HPCL's head of finance J. Ramaswamy told the same press conference that the company had already settled all payments for Iran oil purchases.

In the previous round of sanctions India made payments in rupees to Iran's account with UCO bank. Iran used the funds to buy goods from India.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by Susan Fenton)