By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India took about 46 percent more oil from Iran in January-July compared with a year ago as its refiners continued to lift higher volumes while world powers and Tehran work to resolve a decade-old dispute over the OPEC nation's nuclear programme.
Six major powers and Iran failed to meet a July 20 deadline to negotiate a final agreement under which Iran would curb its nuclear activities in exchange for an end to economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
An interim deal that eases some sanctions while negotiations continue has been extended by four months. Senior U.S. and Iranian officials held "constructive" nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday, and the major powers and Iran will meet again in advance of this September's U.N. gathering.
India and China both boosted imports from Iran after the initial interim deal was agreed in November. Iran's two other main clients, Japan and South Korea, have continued to reduce their volumes overall.
India, Tehran's top client after China, received about 210,300 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil last month, nearly six times the volume as in July a year ago, data on tanker arrivals from trade sources shows.
Last year, though, Indian refiners drastically cut their imports from Tehran starting from April due to a lack of insurance for units processing Iranian oil. The intake from Iran in July 2013 at 35,500 bpd was the lowest since at least 2010.
Over the first seven months of the year, India's intake from Iran has averaged about 270,600 bpd, up from 185,700 bpd in the same period last year.
In July, imports from Iran rose by about 26 percent from the previous month.
State-run Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical Ltd was the biggest buyer of Iranian oil in July followed by Essar Oil Ltd, the data showed. MRPL and Essar are India's only two regular monthly importers of Iranian crude.
Iran's share of total Indian oil imports rose to 7 percent in the first seven months of this year compared with 4.8 percent last year, the tanker arrival data also showed.
January-July this year India's import of oil from Latin America rose by 1 percent, while that from Africa increased by about 10.5 percent, the data showed.
Purchases from the Middle East declined by 6.2 percent over the period, the data showed.
Overall, India shipped in 2.5 percent less crude in July than a year ago, the data showed. Total crude imports for the January-July period fell 1.2 percent.
Iran's oil exports slipped for a second month in July to about 1.14 million bpd, still slightly above the limit set by the West under the interim deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear programme, according to sources who track tanker shipments.
(Editing by Tom Hogue)