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IRANIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT TO BE COMMISSIONED WITH RUSSIAN FUEL

RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, February 28 (RIA Novosti) - On February 27, Alexander Rumyantsev, the director of Russia's Federal Nuclear Energy Agency, and Iran's Vice-President Gholamreza Agazade, who also heads that country's Atomic Energy Organization, signed an agreement stipulating Russian nuclear-fuel deliveries to the nuclear power plant in Bushehr. Mr. Rumyantsev said this plant could be commissioned next year, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.

It took Tehran and Moscow more than two years to draft this document in conditions of constant US criticism, as Washington claims that Iran's nuclear program aims to develop nuclear weapons.

At the same time, Moscow believes in the peaceful nature of Tehran's nuclear ambitions. President Putin spoke about this in Slovakia last week. When talking to President Bush, the Russian leader promised that Russia will stop assisting Iran, if Tehran did not return spent nuclear fuel. Moscow claims that the Bushehr plant will not bring Iran any closer to developing nuclear weapons.

Interestingly, the Russian-Iranian agreement was to have been signed on Saturday. However, the signing ceremony was put off until Sunday, which led some analysts to claim that the contract had been torpedoed. Mohammad Saidi, the vice-president of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, explained that deadlines for returning the spent fuel to Russia had become the main stumbling block.

John Bolton, who served as US under secretary of state for arms control and international security in 2000-2004, said that possible plutonium production at the Bushehr reactor was only one cause for concern. Mr. Bolton believes the Bushehr project could be used to conceal other sensitive and disturbing nuclear fuel-cycle activity.

Alexander Nyago, the president of Russia's TVEL nuclear holding company, has expressed a similar opinion.

Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation is the main source of current Russian-US frictions. Analysts believe that the commissioning of the Bushehr plant will only exacerbate this problem.



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