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Russia delivers nuclear fuel to Iran

world Updated: Dec 18, 2007 00:13 IST
Fred Weir

Moscow has made its first delivery of enriched uranium fuel to Iran in advance of the startup of the controversial Russian-built Bushehr atomic power station, which the US has criticised as a proliferation threat.

"Iran has created conditions to restore trust in its nuclear programme," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday. The first delivery was made at the weekend, and the total of 180 main fuel "clusters" will be completed within two months, it said.

Construction of the $1-billion plant, with two pressurised water reactors, has been dogged by delays over the past year which the Russians explained as payment disputes with Iran.

Many experts suggested that Russia was blocking the plant's completion until a diplomatic settlement of the controversy over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons drive, which has led the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

But earlier this month the US, which has been the main source of suspicion about Teheran's alleged nuclear ambitions, published an intelligence finding that Iran had suspended its atomic weapons program 4 years ago.

Last week Russian and Iranian negotiators reached a deal to complete Bushehr. Russian experts say the plant can be fully operational within six months. Russia insists that the enriched uranium fuel it's supplying cannot be diverted for military purposes.

"All fuel that will be delivered will be under the control and guarantees of the International Atomic Energy Agency for the whole time it stays on Iranian territory," the Foreign Ministry statement said.