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No political obstacles to Bushehr construction - Russia

RIA Novosti

23/04/2007 17:10 YEREVAN, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - There are no political obstacles for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Iran, as the project does not violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime, Russia's top nuclear official said Monday.

Russia is building Bushehr, Iran's first nuclear power plant, under a 1995 agreement in the south of the Islamic Republic, which has been in the focus of international attention over its controversial nuclear research program. Western nations and Israel suspect Tehran of concealing a weapons program, but Iran says it needs to enrich uranium for energy.

"The Bushehr nuclear power plant poses no threat to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, therefore there are no political obstacles to continuing its construction," Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said during his visit to Armenia.

"The fact that we supply nuclear fuel and then take back spent nuclear fuel guarantees that Iran will not use the irradiated fuel in the future," Kiriyenko said.

Russia's nuclear chief reiterated that the Bushehr project was halted for technical rather than political reasons, refuting media speculations that Russia, an international mediator on Iran's nuclear program, had used the power plant project as a lever to force Iran to abandon its atomic research.

The $1-billion project, implemented under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog, came under the threat of suspension after Russian contractors said in February that Tehran had only covered 60% of the required funding by the fourth quarter of 2006 and had completely stopped the payments in mid-January. After negotiations with Iranian officials, Russia's nuclear export monopoly Atomstroyexport said late last month that Iran had made part of the payments but still had to cover the arrears.

Another round of bilateral talks in Moscow April 21-22 yielded a bilateral deal Sunday outlining a set of measures to provide stable financing for the project. But Kiriyenko said another problem was delays in equipment supplies from third countries.

The Bushehr project was originally to be commissioned in July 1999, but the deadline has been revised five times since then.

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