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Iran's nuclear chief to visit Russia on Bushehr NPP next week

RIA Novosti

18/09/2006 14:37 MOSCOW, September 18 (RIA Novosti) - The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said Monday he will visit Russia next week.

A spokesman for Russia's Federal Agency for Nuclear Power confirmed the visit of Golam Reza Agazade, who is also the Islamic Republic's vice president, saying it will take place September 25: "The main focus of the [planned] meeting will be the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr."

Russia is building the first unit of the Bushehr NPP, 250 miles southwest of Tehran, under a $1 billion contract signed in 1995. But Iran can face international sanctions for declining to suspend uranium enrichment, which the UN Security Council demanded in Resolution 1696 July 31.

The plant is scheduled to be commissioned in the second half of 2007, after the original date at the end of 2006 was put back. The project was originally started by Germany's Siemens in 1975, but work stopped with the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The Islamic Republic has been at the center of an international dispute this year over its nuclear ambitions. Some countries suspect the Islamic Republic of pursuing a covert weapons program, but Tehran has consistently denied the claims and says it needs nuclear energy for civilian needs.

A meeting last week between the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani brought no progress in the dispute.

Tehran, which says it can still suspend enrichment activities and has asked for more talks, secured support for its case from the 188-nation Non-Aligned Movement.

The countries passed a declaration at a summit in Cuba this weekend, proposed by Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Syria, acknowledging Iran's and other countries' right to conduct nuclear research and use nuclear energy for civilian needs.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his country will stand by Iran in all circumstances, even in the event of a military campaign against the Islamic Republic.

On Monday, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he hopes the Iranian problem will be resolved through talks between Tehran and international negotiators.

Mohammed ElBaradei said negotiations should dispel the international community's doubts regarding the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, and Iran's economic and political security concerns related to the possible suspension of enrichment activities.

Russia, which signed the UN resolution but opposes the imposition of sanctions, said it will continue building the NPP in Bushehr.

"As long as the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant remains within the framework of international law, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power will conduct the nuclear plant's construction within the agreed timeframe," Sergei Novikov, press secretary for Russia's nuclear agency, said in early September.

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