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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Senior Atomstroyexport official heads to Iran Thu. for NPP talks

RIA Novosti

15/03/2007 18:20 MOSCOW, March 15 (RIA Novosti) - The head of Russian company Atomstroyexport's department for the construction of the Bushehr NPP in southern Iran will fly to Tehran for a final round of talks Thursday, a spokesman of the project's contractor said.

"Work at the NPP [building] site is currently under way, and we hope the talks will be constructive," he said, adding that they could continue next week.

Russia's Atomstroyexport said Tehran has not financed its first nuclear power plant since mid-January, and that in the fourth quarter of 2006 the project only received 60% of the funding required, warning that the launch of the NPP and nuclear fuel deliveries could be delayed as a result.

Iran has denied the debt, accusing Russia of being pressured by the West, which is trying to force Tehran to end its nuclear program.

An aide to Atomstroyexport's chief, Sergei Novikov, said Wednesday the company was continuing work at Bushehr, although on a limited basis, but complained that Iran's statements "revealing its reluctance to pay" had deterred some subcontractors, undermining the situation further.

"Atomstroyexport has so far managed to maintain control of construction, but we are witnessing a paradox, when Russian contractors are working in spite of the Iranian customer's wishes," Novikov said.

Tehran said Wednesday it had paid Russia over $75 million and another $6 million in its national currency between October 10, 2006 and March 14, 2007, including a $12.7 million installment March 1.

However, Russia denied the payment, saying Tehran had only paid $5.1 million in January and had not transferred any money in February.

Moscow warned the plant could not go into service in September as planned, and that nuclear fuel would not be supplied to the NPP in March - six months before the launch - due to the financial problems.

The Islamic Republic, already under limited international sanctions, is facing tougher penalties from the UN Security Council over its refusal to halt the uranium enrichment that some countries fear could be used in nuclear weapons production.

Iran has insisted its nuclear program is only for electricity generation.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell said Wednesday that Washington approved of Russia's approach to Bushehr, but would support the project only if Russian nuclear fuel shipped to the NPP was used purely for peaceful purposes, and spent fuel was returned to Russia.

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