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. Iran to press ahead with first nuclear power plant: Khatami
DUSHANBE (AFP) Sep 12, 2004
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said here Sunday that his Islamic state was pushing forward with nuclear cooperation with Russia despite protests from the West.

He also said that Russia and Iran must unite against "certain countries" -- a clear reference to the United States -- which are trying to press their influence in the lucrative Caspian Sea region and its energy market.

"We are certain that all of the region's powers must keep to good relations, and this will allow the regional powers to stand up against the ambitions of certain countries," he told reporters through a translator.

Khatami said the Russia-built nuclear reactor in the southern town of Bushehr would go ahead despite resistance from the United States and Israel, comments made during a visit to the Central Asian former Soviet republic of Tajikistan, with which it has linguistic and cultural ties.

"Thankfully, despite all the pressure that is being put on Russia from all sides -- including that from the United States -- Russia has bravely declared that it is ready to cooperate with Iran," Khatami told reporters.

"We feel that our cooperation strengthens the whole region, makes it more stable," he said.

His comments came amid apparent efforts by Russian officials to slow down the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant amid Western worries over the project.

At the earliest, the plant's launch has been delayed until next year.

Khatami arrived in Tajikistan for talks over a 400-million-dollar project to complete a hydro-electric power station that was launched 15 years ago but never completed.

The United States is pushing for oil and gas pipelines that skirt both Russia and Iran on their path from the lucrative Caspian Sea to Western markets, a campaign that has drawn broader political implications.

But despite their anger at the US project, Russia and Iran have so far been unable to agree to their own terms splitting up the oil in the bed of Caspian Sea, with Iran claiming that it was being short-changed by Moscow.

The negotiations have been going on for much of the past decade, and few analysts expect the conflict to be resolved in the short term.

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