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Iran says nuclear fuel deal with Russia imminent
Updated: 2005-02-17 23:12

Russia will sign a deal with Iran next week to start nuclear fuel shipments for the Russian-built reactor there, an Iranian official said on Thursday.

The United States, which accuses Iran of secretly working to develop nuclear weapons, has long called on Russia to avoid supplying the Islamic state with nuclear fuel.

"A fuel deal for the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be signed on Feb. 26," Assadollah Sabouri, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told state television.

The comments indicated that the two countries had settled disagreements over the terms of their accord after years of negotiations.

Russian Atomic Energy Agency chief Alexander Rumyantsev, confirming Iran's announcement, said ways of accelerating the reactor's start-up will be discussed during his visit to Tehran next week, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

The 1,000-megawatt Bushehr reactor, Iran's only nuclear power plant, is due to start up in late 2005 and reach full capacity in 2006.

Oil-rich Iran denies that it is developing nuclear arms and says its program is solely for generating electricity.

Israel said on Wednesday that Iran was just six months away from having the knowledge to build nuclear weapons.

A source at the agency said this month that the first fuel containers would be supplied about two months after the signing.

Spent fuel will be sent back to Siberian storage units after about a decade of use -- a condition Russia thinks should allay U.S. concerns that Iran could use the material to make weapons.

The European Union, represented by France, Britain and Germany, has been trying to persuade Iran to scrap potentially weapons-related activities in return for economic incentives.

But Iran has repeatedly said it will never permanently end its disputed nuclear activities.

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