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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia denies Iran claim that Bushehr debt issue resolved

RIA Novosti

07/03/2007 16:51 MOSCOW, March 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has refuted Iran's claim Monday that the countries had resolved all outstanding financial issues regarding the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in south Iran.

Russian specialists are completing the construction of Iran's first NPP under a $1 billion contract signed in 1995, but Russia claimed last month that Iran had an unpaid debt for its construction services, and said that as a result construction might take longer than previously expected.

"According to the authorized bank, no funds had been received by the morning of March 7. The Iranian side made its last payment January 17," said Yevgeniya Neimerovets, chief financial officer of Atomstroyexport, the project's contractor.

She said the company has continued its work despite the financial shortfall, which the official said was slowing down construction.

"The arrears have hit our subcontracting partners in the project hard," Neimerovets said.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said earlier Wednesday that Iranian payments had been made ahead of schedule. He said construction was almost complete and that suspending or freezing it was out of the question.

"We hope that Russia will resolve all remaining technical issues under its contract obligations, especially those related to cooling systems," the minister said. "And the plant will be ready for operation as soon as the nuclear fuel is delivered."

A delegation led by Mohammad Saidi, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, has arrived in Moscow to discuss the financial issues with Atomstroyexport President Sergei Shmatko.

"The main issue on today's agenda is the critical situation over nonpayment by the Iranian side [for construction] and its influence on the commissioning schedule to make quick joint decisions," an Atomstroyexport spokesperson said.

The Bushehr facility has been a source of international dispute, with the United States and other Western countries raising concerns that Iran could use the project as part of a covert weapons program. Iran has consistently denied that its nuclear program has military goals.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in December imposing sanctions against Iran.

Russia, a key economic partner of Iran, has consistently supported the Islamic Republic's right to nuclear power under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and has resisted the imposition of harsh sanctions.

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