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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia delivers sixth fuel shipment to Iran nuclear plant

RIA Novosti

24/01/2008 08:46 TEHRAN, January 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russia delivered on Thursday a sixth fuel shipment to the Bushehr nuclear power plant it is building in southern Iran, the Islamic Republic's state-run media said, citing Iranian nuclear officials.

With the latest shipment, Russia has so far supplied a total of 66 metric tons of low-enriched uranium to the plant, which has been the focus of international attention over fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The first delivery to the plant, being built by Russian contractor Atomstroyexport, came on December 16, 2007 following months of project delays that Moscow attributed to payment arrears, but which Iran blamed on pressure from Western nations.

The remaining two shipments will be delivered according to a previously agreed timetable by the end of February.

Under a bilateral intergovernmental contract, Russia is set to deliver a total of 82 metric tons of nuclear fuel divided into eight shipments. Deliveries are monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham earlier said Tehran expects bilateral relations to gain much from the fuel deliveries.

"Russia and Iran maintain good, developing relations. The deliveries of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant are also a good pretext for boosting cooperation between our countries," he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who has led international calls for sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze its nuclear program, said last month that he supported the start of Russia's enriched uranium deliveries to the Islamic Republic, and that Tehran no longer has any excuse to develop its own enrichment capabilities.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed Bush's comments in late December, saying it would not be economically viable for Iran to continue its uranium enrichment program.

However, Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali-Hamenei insisted earlier this month that Tehran would continue enriching uranium for future nuclear power plants.

Western nations fear Iran seeks to produce nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Two sets of UN Security Council sanctions are currently in place against Tehran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

A new resolution on further sanctions was agreed on by the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany on Tuesday. It is expected to expand travel bans and asset freezes.

More stringent sanctions have been blocked by China and Russia, with extensive business interests in Iran, whereas the U.S. has pushed for tough measures to be taken against the Islamic Republic.

Commenting on the new resolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday: "Our position is crystal clear. As we have stated before, from our point of view, Iran's nuclear problem is over, but they have made the same mistake again...an ineffective resolution."

Tehran plans to hold tenders for the construction of 19 new nuclear reactors.

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