NEW DELHI: The US has asked India not to increase crude oil imports from Iran until the middle of 2014 as it tests Tehran’s resolve to cooperate with world powers on its controversial nuclear programme.

The US has told New Delhi in no uncertain terms that oil imports from Iran have to be restricted to no more than 11 million tons a year, a top official said.

For Washington, the year implies January to December, while India insists that the quota should hold good for the financial year beginning April.

The US and six other world powers had in November last year reached a historic accord with Iran, allowing easing of some sanctions against the Islamic regime in exchange for halting its programme to attain nuclear weapon capability.

As per the agreement, the world powers allowed Iran to maintain its oil exports at 1 million barrels a day to key buyers India, China, Japan and South Korea.

The official said India had imported 6.74 million tons of oil from Iran during April-December and planned to buy over 4.2 million tons in the last quarter of the financial year ending March.

The US insistence on keeping the 11 million ton quota for the 2014 calendar year would mean that India buys a total of not more than 5.5-6 million tons during January-June.

The US has also allowed Iran to receive USD 4.2 billion its key buyers owe in past dues after western sanctions blocked payment channels.

India owes some USD 3 billion and may pay the first installment of USD 500 million to Iran through a bank and currency identified by the US, he said.

New Delhi pays 45 per cent of its Iran oil bill in rupees through a Uco Bank branch in Kolkata. For the rest, it has been waiting for Tehran to identify a channel for payments.