Russia backs Iran nuclear ambitions

Moscow will not drop plans to build Iran's first nuclear plant despite growing US political pressure, according to Russia's atomic energy minister on Tuesday.

    Rumyantsev, far right, frequently
    updates the IAEA about Russia's
    nuclear contracts

    Alexander Rumyantsev maintained that the construction of the plant in the southern port city of Bushehr will continue as planned.

    "Russia does not see any reason now to review its stance and its role regarding construction of the first nuclear reactor," Rumyantsev said after talks with visiting Iranian nuclear officials on Monday.

    Speaking to Interfax news agency, the Russian minister said: "Iran has so far been fully committed to the signed contracts, as well as the international rules and regulations regarding the use of the nuclear energy."
       
    Russia says it is providing Iran only with civilian nuclear equipment, adding that the used fuel from the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr plant will be shipped back to Russia for reprocessing.
       
    "We will continue to fulfil our duties despite the fact that our position on this question is different to Washington's official view," Rumyantsev added. 
       

    The plant, Iran's first, is set to start operation next year. Iran is also developing other nuclear facilities, including a uranium enrichment plant.

    Iranian irritation

    Iranian Ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Shafei, denounced efforts at politicizing the Tehran-Moscow nuclear co-operation by third countries.

    Echoeing earlier comments by Iran's Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, he said Iran has "a natural right to make use of modern technology".

    US Iran tensions are bigger than
    the Bushehr nuclear plant

    Iranian President Muhammad Khatami had said that the government is ready to accept inspectors to check its [nuclear] activities "in order to reveal the lies told by others”.

    US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had informed the Russian officials of Washington's serious concern regarding Iran's nuclear plans after his recent visit to Moscow.   

    Policy changes

    In a sign that Moscow may have started to take more account of Washington's concerns, Russian officials have urged more nuclear transparency from Iran and announced it will hold monthly consultations with the US Department of Energy to discuss the plant.
     
    US policymakers are due to gather at the White House on Tuesday to discuss Iran with the Pentagon reportedly pushing for a tougher stance.
       
    The heat on Iran is likely to be turned up further on 16 June, if the International Atomic Energy Agency signals doubts that Iran's nuclear facilities are not only designed for power generation.
     
    Iran, which is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, rejects that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.   


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