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. Iran urges Russia to speed up nuclear plant work
TEHRAN, May 12 (AFP) May 12, 2006
Iran has pressed Russia to speed up work and quickly finish constructing a controversial nuclear reactor that it is building in the south of the Islamic republic, a top nuclear official said Friday.

Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, said that during talks in Moscow on Thursday Tehran also complained to Russia about the lack of fuel delivered for the Bushehr plant, Iran's first nuclear reactor.

"During our discussions with the Russians we told them that since 92 percent of the Bushehr plant has already been completed, they can speed up building the equipment and also they can work in three shifts, so the plant could be completed soon," he said.

"We also complained to the Russians, since they have not lived up to their commitment to deliver the needed fuel for the Bushehr reactor. We asked them to do it as soon as possible," he added.

However he added that "the exact time of such delivery was not set."

Iran has been increasingly impatient over the absence of nuclear fuel for the plant, which Russia had previously promised would arrive early this year. Iran has agreed to send the spent nuclear fuel rods back to Russia after use.

Saeedi also revealed that "a group of nuclear experts from both nations will be set up to inform the heads of both countries nuclear energy organisations in the next 20 days the timetable for completing the plant."

Russian officials have said that "a whole spectrum of issues was raised, including Bushehr," in the talks with Russian atomic energy agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko.

Russia has resisted US calls to abandon the Bushehr project, which is expected to be completed by 2007, saying that Iran's first nuclear reactor will not undermine non-proliferation efforts by the international community.

The talks came as negotiators from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States prepare to meet in London on May 19 to discuss ways of getting Iran to give up sensitive nuclear research.

Western powers suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons capability under the cover of a civilian energy program.

But Iran insists its nuclear aims are entirely peaceful.

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