Sun, Nov 05, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Russia refuses to bargain over Iran nuclear facility

AFP , MOSCOW

Russia will not bargain at the UN Security Council over its construction of Iran's first nuclear power station at Bushehr, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday, Russian news agencies reported.

Lavrov said that European powers were trying to win Russian support for UN sanctions against Iran in exchange for allowing Moscow to continue construction of the Bushehr facility -- a key building block in Iran's controversial nuclear program.

"What they say between the lines is: `Support us on all points and we will allow you to build Bushehr.' We don't need that," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax.

"These plans will go ahead," he was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency.

Washington has asked Moscow to reconsider the Bushehr project, saying that Iran could use an atomic power capability to disguise a secret military program.

However, Lavrov said the lucrative construction project would in fact help keep Iran's nuclear ambitions under international control.

"Bushehr is a real anchor which will hold Iran in the non-proliferation regime," he was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS. "The atomic energy station is being built under full control" of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Russia has demanded extensive changes to the European-drafted UN resolution, which seeks to punish Iran for refusing to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work. Iran says the work is part of a legitimate civilian energy program.

The draft, put forward by Britain, France and Germany, mandates nuclear-and ballistic-missile-related trade sanctions. It also calls for a freeze on assets related to Iran's nuclear and missile programs and travel bans on scientists involved in those programs.

But it would allow Russia to continue building the US$1billion dollar nuclear power plant in Bushehr -- an exemption that diplomats say is crucial to efforts to gain Moscow's approval.

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