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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran says UN should stay out of nuclear cargo row with Azerbaijan

RIA Novosti

29/04/2008 13:05 BAKU, April 29 (RIA Novosti) - The dispute over a Russian equipment delivery for Iran's first nuclear plant, detained last month by Azerbaijani customs officials, must be resolved without the UN, Iran's envoy to Baku said on Tuesday.

A column of vehicles carrying heat insulators for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which Russian contractor Atomstroyexport is building in the southwest of the Islamic Republic, was stopped at the border between Azerbaijan and Iran in late March.

"Neither the International Atomic Energy Agency [the UN's nuclear watchdog] nor the UN should be involved in this issue," said Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Naser Hamidi Zare. "We are awaiting further steps taken by the Azerbaijani side."

Iran earlier urged Russia to negotiate the release of the shipment, saying the Russian contractor was responsible for the plant commissioning schedule.

However, Russia's ambassador to Azerbaijan, Vasily Istratov, said it was down to Azerbaijan's government to resolve the formalities around the shipment because it was legal under international law.

"The cargo has been detained by Azerbaijan, so they have to decide what to do next," he said.

Atomstroyexport earlier 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 Azerbaijani authorities said they needed additional 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," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry 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.

"If Russia intends to transport this [nuclear] shipment through our territory, Moscow has to provide documentation from the customer specifying the parameters of the cargo, considering its specific nature," Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said on Tuesday.

He added that Moscow had not responded to Baku's offer to start negotiations, and criticized Atomstroyexport for not taking appropriate steps to resolve the issue.

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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