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Atomstroyexport chief announces Iran visit for Bushehr talks

RIA Novosti

24/05/2007 18:47 MOSCOW, May 24 (RIA Novosti) - The head of Russia's nuclear equipment export monopoly, Atomstroyexport, said Thursday he would visit Iran in late May for talks on the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

"We have a preliminary agreement with our [Iranian] colleagues that I will go to Tehran at the end of this month," Sergei Shmatko told journalists.

Shmatko said the completion of the plant now depends entirely on the Iranian side, and that the key remaining issue is the guaranteed financing for its construction.

Russia's Atomstroyexport 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 $1-billion project, implemented under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog, came under the threat of suspension after the Russian contractor said in February that Tehran had only covered 60% of the required funding by the fourth quarter of 2006, and had completely stopped payment in mid-January.

The head of the Atomstroyexport also said that the company has an ambitious plan to start building new nuclear power plants in Russia.

The company, Shmatko said, has gained vast experience, "which it could offer Russia," adding that Atomstroyexport also plans to form a large energy and metals company jointly with United Company RusAl, the world's largest producer of aluminum and alloys.

"We are ready to sign documents with RusAl on the construction of a large joint energy and metals company in [Russia's] Far East," Shmatko said.

Shmatko also said that the successful construction of the Belene NPP in Bulgaria would help the company conquer the East European market and convince European partners to order Russian nuclear technologies.

Atomstroyexport, which is currently building five nuclear power plants in China, India and Iran, under contracts worth a total of $4.5 billion, won a tender to build two 1,000-megawatt reactors for the Belene NPP, about 150 miles from Bulgaria's capital, Sofia, on October 30, 2006.

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