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Delayed agreement affects Iran's nuke plant
Updated: 2005-02-27 09:13

The delayed signing between Iran and Russia of a key nuclear fuel agreement on Saturday has cast shadow on the launch of Iran's first nuclear plant, which has already been postponed.

Alexander Rumyantsev, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, arrived Friday in Tehran on a credibly purported mission to sign the important agreement on nuclear fuel supply to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Bushehr plant is being built now with Russia's aid on a Persian Gulf island in the southern province of Bushehr.

The United States, accusing Iran of developing nuclear weapons secretly, has pressured Moscow to abandon the project.

In order to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons with spent fuel, Russia conditions delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran on an agreement signed between the two sides assuring all spent fuel would be returned to Russia.

Iran at first refused the request, and then softened its stance.

However, repeated failures in reaching an accord on details of the return delayed the agreement of delivery and then the operation of the plant.

Rumyantsev's visit, from the day it was made public, raised Iran's hope that the last obstacle to the launch of the Bushehr plant would soon be removed and the plant would be on stream in the near future.

It was previously said that the agreement would be signed after Rumyantsev and his Iranian counterpart Gholamreza Aghazadeh held discussions on Saturday morning.

However, a spokesman of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) said at noon that the deal had not been signed and a news conference had been postponed.

The spokesman did not specify the reason, but Mohammad Saeedi, vice president of the IAEO told the state television later that Iran had rejected Russia's proposal that the opening of the plant be delayed until June 2006.

However, as early as last August, Asadollah Sabouri, also deputy head of the IAEO, announced that the Bushehr plant would become operational in October 2006.

Saeedi, in an interview with the official IRNA news agency, said that the signing would be carried out on Sunday at the site of the plant.

"The deal will be signed Sunday when top Russian nuclear official Alexander Rumyantsev inspects the Bushehr power plant," he said.

"The issues are to be resolved Saturday night and the deal is to be signed Sunday in Bushehr," Saeedi said, urging Russia to show some flexibility during negotiations.

Saeedi stressed that talks between Iranian and Russian officials were making headway and the two sides agreed to proceed with the second phase of Bushehr power plant.

"Both sides underlined that the timing of the first phase of the power plant should be shortened and that the Iranian and Russian experts have to work overtime so that the power plant would become operational ahead of schedule," Saeedi said.

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