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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran says NPP cargo seizure 'technical problem'

RIA Novosti

25/04/2008 19:27 TEHRAN, April 25 (RIA Novosti) - Iran regards the decision by Azerbaijan to seize equipment en route from Russia to the Iranian Bushehr nuclear power plant nearly a month ago as "a technical problem," Iran's envoy said Friday.

A column of vehicles carrying equipment for Iran's first nuclear power plant was stopped at the border between Azerbaijan and Iran in late March.

"The seizure by Baku of equipment for the NPP en route from Russia to Iran is a matter of customs procedure, it's a technical problem," the Iranian Ambassador in Azerbaijan Naser Hamidi Zare said, adding that the two countries enjoyed friendly ties, "rooted in the history of our nations."

A Russian source close to the issue said on Wednesday the decision by Azerbaijan to seize equipment registered in strict accordance with international freight transportation regulations was "a politically motivated decision...a political force-majeure."

The source said that if Iran wanted the plant commissioning schedule to be unchanged, it would be reasonable for Tehran as a neighbor to start discussions with Azerbaijan.

But an Iranian official said it was down to Atomstroyexport, the Russian company building the plant in the Islamic Republic, to resolve the problem.

"The issue with the seizure of a shipment......is a problem to be resolved by the Russian contractor," the unnamed Iranian official was quoted by Iran's student news agency ISNA as saying.

An Atomstroyexport spokesperson said on Tuesday: "We have been prepared to provide explanations on the cargo for the past 25 days since the freight was stopped on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border, but Azerbaijan has not made any official inquiries."

The representative said the cargo destined for Bushehr was not a dual-purpose product or nuclear material, but insulating equipment. "The shipment was registered in line with all accepted international practical regulations."

But the press secretary at Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said his country had requested information from Russia over the cargo.

"There are certain UN Security Council resolutions against Iran in place, and we want to know whether the cargo complies with the resolutions. Which is why we requested that the Russian side specify the content of the cargo," Khazar Ibragim said.

Iran is currently under three sets of UN sanctions over its uranium program. The latest resolution against Iran froze accounts of certain Iranian companies and banks, and introduced inspections for goods leaving and entering the Islamic Republic.

Russia delivered its final and eighth fuel shipment to Bushehr on January 28. Russia has supplied a total of 82 metric tons of low-enriched uranium to the light-water nuclear power plant. Iran hopes its first nuclear power plant will be launched in October.

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