Russia against an Iranian nuclear weapons programme: Ivanov
LJUBLJANA (AFP) Sep 12, 2003
Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Friday said Moscow was committed to attempts by the UN nuclear watchdog to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons

Russia "is engaged in avoiding the expansion of nuclear arms and a development of a nuclear programme in Iran," Ivanov said shortly before the UN body imposed a deadline on Tehran to declare its nuclear activities.

But the minister, currently on a visit to Slovenia, said Moscow still wanted to continue its nuclear cooperation programme with Tehran.

Russia is building the Islamic state's first nuclear plant in Bushehr, a project that has attracted criticism from Western nations who fear Tehran may use spent fuel from the plant in a weapons programme.

"We are collaborating with Iran strictly following our international duties," Ivanov said during a joint press conference with his Slovenian counterpart Dimitrij Rupel.

"The object that is being built in Iran in collaboration with Russia is monitored by the IAEA and we have so far not received any requests related to it," he continued, referring to the Bushehr plant.

The foreign minister was speaking just before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) imposed an October 31 deadline on Iran to prove it is not secretly developing atomic weapons.

The Iranian delegation at the IAEA walked out in protest just as the body was about to adopt the resolution.

On Thursday, a source at the Russian atomic energy said that Russia would not call off the Bushehr project if Iran does not agree to IAEA demands but it would do so if Tehran was found in violation of the agency's norms.

"Then we'll stop our cooperation immediately," the source said.

The United States alleges that Iran is covertly developing atomic weapons under the guise of its nuclear energy programme.

The Bushehr was originally due to go online by the end of 2005, but the project has been held up as Russia and Iran negotiate a separate agreement that would oblige Tehran to return the plant's spent fuel back to Russia for storage.

Ivanov arrived in Ljubljana on Friday afternoon from Serbia to hold talks on Slovenia's future membership of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), due in 2004.

He is to travel to Geneva on Saturday to take part in a UN-brokered meeting on the Iraqi crisis with the foreign ministers from the other four permanent members of the security council: Britain, the United States, Russia and China.