Fri, Dec 27, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Moscow dismisses US worries over nuclear Iran

REUTERS , TEHRAN

Russia brushed aside strong US criticism on Wednesday and said it had agreed with Tehran to speed up building of a US$800 million nuclear reactor in Iran and to consider constructing another.

The US, which has branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" for allegedly developing weapons of mass destruction, fiercely opposes the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said Washington had failed to show that Iran had broken any international regulations over the nuclear program.

"We always tell our American colleagues that all Iran- Russia cooperation is in accordance with international regulations and the resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," Rumyantsev told a news conference.

Moscow's continued participation in the project to build a nuclear reactor near the southwestern port of Bushehr had depended on Iranian assurances that all spent fuel would be returned to Russia -- a demand advanced by US experts.

Iran insists the Bushehr reactor is for purely civilian power production, but US officials question why Iran, the second biggest oil producer in OPEC and with the second biggest gas reserves in the world, would need it.

Russia says it would be difficult for the civilian reactor to be adapted to produce nuclear weapons, a stance disputed by Washington.

US officials earlier this month also charged that two other nuclear sites being built in central Iran were of a type that could be used for manufacturing nuclear warheads.

The Bushehr reactor, due to come on stream at the end of 2003, is under the supervision of the IAEA, while the other two plants are not due to be inspected by the agency until late February.

"We agreed to speed up the completion process of the Bushehr power plant," Gholamreza Aqazadeh, head of the Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said.

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