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. Russia ready to continue nuclear cooperation with new Iranian leadership
MOSCOW (AFP) Jun 25, 2005
Russia is ready to continue cooperating with Iran in the atomic energy sector following the victory of hardliner Mahmood Ahmadinejad in presidential elections, but will meet obligations to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday.

"We are ready to continue cooperation with Iran in the atomic energy sector, while taking into account our international obligations in the area of non-proliferation, (and) to cooperate on finding a mutually acceptable political solution to existing questions," Putin said in a statement.

Putin congratulated Ahmadinejad, saying his resounding win was an "expression of the will of the Iranian people" and that Russia looked forward to developing relations with the Islamic state.

Construction work on a new Russian nuclear power station at Bushehr in Iran is almost complete. Officials there said this week that the first deliveries of Russian nuclear fuel should be made within a few months.

In an attempt to allay US and EU concerns that the civilian power station is part of a secret weapons development programme, Moscow and Tehran brokered a deal in which Iran must send spent fuel back to Russia.

However, analysts and diplomats in Tehran say that the victory of ultra-conservative Ahmadinejad could spell a new hardening in the country's negotiating stance over Western demands that Iran curb its nuclear ambitions.

Russia maintains warm ties with Iran. Putin said in his statement that other potential growth areas in cooperation included oil and gas, transport, telecommunications, and civil aviation.

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