Sanctions no threat to Iranian nuclear plant launch - Russian MP
MOSCOW, April 14 (RIA Novosti) - Possible new sanctions against Iran should not affect the launch date for the country's first nuclear power plant, a senior Russian member of parliament said on Wednesday.
The United States and other Western countries suspect Iran of developing nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear energy program and are seeking new sanctions following Iran's move to enrich uranium to 20%.
"New sanctions will have no impact on the timeframe for putting the [Bushehr nuclear power plant] into operation," said Leonid Slutsky, first deputy head of the State Duma International Affairs Committee.
He added that sanctions were inevitable if Tehran finally rejected the IAEA-sponsored nuclear fuel swap scheme.
"Iran continues to test the patience of the international community and forcing it to use sanctions," the lawmaker said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier sanctions were unlikely to target Iran's energy sector or its international trade, suggesting that sanctions should be "smart" and not hurt the Iranian people.
The Bushehr project manager said on Monday Iran had started final testing of the nuclear power plant's equipment.
The deputy chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Behzad Soltani, said on Sunday the nuclear plant, located in the country's south, will go on stream in the summer.
"After the test, nuclear fuel will be inserted into the reactor, and this will put Iran among the members of the world's nuclear club," he said.
Russia's nuclear fuel producer TVEL has said it will deliver its next fuel shipment to Bushehr a year after the plant is launched.
The launch date has been postponed many times for financial and technical reasons. Iranian officials have claimed that Russia was reluctant to finish the facility due to UN sanctions and concerns voiced by world powers that the plant is part of a covert nuclear weapons program.
The construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant began in 1975 by German companies. However, the firms stopped work after a U.S. embargo was imposed on high-technology supplies to Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. Embassy siege in Tehran.
Russia signed a contract with Iran in February 1998 to complete the plant.
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