Russia to continue with construction of Iranian nuclear program

Published December 16th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Moscow said Sunday that it would press on with the construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran and emphasized it had no connection with two suspected Iranian nuclear facilities identified by Washington last week. 

 

Russia's agreement to construct a nuclear energy facility at Bushehr, in the western part of the Islamic republic, neither violates international agreements nor threatens to violate non-proliferation accords, Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev told ITAR-TASS news agency. 

 

Iranian plans to create its own nuclear fuel cycle "do not violate any (of Tehran's) obligations," the minister said. 

 

Moreover, Rumyantsev dismissed as groundless US fears voiced late last week after the release of satellite images of what were described as nuclear sites in the towns of Natanz and Arak, which it said had been clandestinely built to hide a nuclear weapons program. 

 

"One cannot say anything definite on the basis of the photographs that have been published," Rumyantsev commented. 

 

He added Russia had "no particular attitude" to the construction of a research laboratory at Natanza and a heavy water production plant at Araka. 

 

On Friday, the American State Department said that the photos suggested Tehran was trying to conceal its aspirations to produce nuclear weapons. 

 

Iran has never concealed its intention to create its own nuclear fuel cycle for which it needs both the laboratory and the heavy water plant, Rumyantsev said. 

 

Rumyantsev further said he believed Washington would step up pressure on Russia to sever its Bushehr contract. He emphasized that "we are not going to do this, because there is no proof we have violated anything. For such pressure to be justified they've got to present evidence of abuse. So far there has been none." 

 

However, he insisted his country would supply fuel for the Bushehr plant, due to begin producing electricity late next year, solely on condition that the Iranian side guarantees to return all the spent fuel, ITAR-TASS said. Deliveries are to start in mid-2003 only "if the Iranian side guarantees its return to Russia under an agreement yet to be signed," the ministry said. 

 

The draft agreement "was sent to the Iranian side last September and has not given rise to any principled objections from Tehran," it said. (Albawaba.com) 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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