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December 13, 2007
Russia Will Finish Bushehr
The fallout continues from the NIE on Iran. Russia, already a reluctant partner in sanctions, has negotiated an agreement with the Iranians that will allow them to complete construction of a nuclear reactor at Bushehr:
Russia and Iran have settled all differences over the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power station and agreed on a timetable for its completion, the Russian contractor building the station said on Thursday. The Russians had been stalling on completion of the complex, largely at the behest of the EU and America. But now that the NIE has ostensibly cleared the Iranians of any violations of the non proliferation treaty, Russia feels free to continue construction.
Russia's role in building Bushehr, Iran's first nuclear power station, is a key element in a diplomatic dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"We have resolved all the problems with the Iranians," said Sergei Shmatko, president of state controlled Atomstroiexport, which is building the Bushehr plant on the Gulf. "We have agreed with our Iranian colleagues a timeframe for completing the plant and we will make an announcement at the end of December," Shmatko told reporters.
The United States, leading European Union nations and Israel say they suspect Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon and have pressed Moscow to drop the Bushehr project. But Russia says there is no evidence that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons and that the uranium Moscow intends to ship to Bushehr is too weak to develop a nuclear bomb. Tehran says its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity.
They will also provide fuel for the plant. The IAEA already has the fuel under seal and have examined it to make sure it has only been enriched to power plant levels - about 5%. Meanwhile at the UN, the Russians are balking at a third round of sanctions - for now.
"We are of course sincerely interested in solving the problems around the Iran nuclear dossier as soon as possible," Lavrov said in opening remarks at their meeting. This attitude almost certainly means that any attempt to get another round of sanctions against Iran are dead for the time being.
"This is possible only on the basis of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the principles of the International Atomic Energy Agency and on the principle that Iran has the right to develop peaceful nuclear energy."
"We note progress in relations between the IAEA and Iran and encourage further progress to ... remove all remaining questions and restore international confidence in Iran."
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky