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. Iranian nuclear chief in Moscow for Bushehr reactor talks
MOSCOW, Sept 24 (AFP) Sep 24, 2006
The head of Iran's atomic energy agency Gholamreza Aghazadeh will visit Moscow on Monday for talks with his Russian counterpart on Iran's first nuclear reactor, officials said.

The Russia-built Bushehr plant, a project worth almost one billion dollars, is set to start generating energy in November 2007, said Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom.

Russia could start delivering nuclear fuel to Iran by next March -- six months ahead of the scheduled completion of the project in southwest Iran, which Russia began building in 1998, Novikov said.

Novikov stressed that Aghazadeh, who is also Iran's vice president, and Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko will talk exclusively about the Bushehr reactor and not about the international dispute over Iran's nuclear programme.

Moscow is broadly resistant to the idea of imposing sanctions on Iran, despite Tehran's refusal to suspend controversial uranium enrichment activity by August 31 as demanded by the UN Security Council.

Washington accuses Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon and has urged sanctions. Tehran insists that it wants to produce nuclear energy and that it has every right to do so.

Tensions surrounding Iran's nuclear programme risk affecting the Bushehr project even though the plant would not be included in any sanctions, analysts said.

"The plant is built under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency and, from the point of view of international law, Russia has nothing to fear," said Daniil Kobyakov of the PIR Center for Policy Studies in Moscow.

Russia has concluded an agreement with Iran under which spent nuclear fuel supplied by Moscow will be returned to Russia once used in order to avoid any possible further use.

Washington is still critical of the Bushehr project, however, saying that it could aid Tehran in building a nuclear weapon and it has called on Russia to suspend nuclear co-operation. Russia has refused to do so.

"It's unilateral action by the United States or Israel that would be the most serious threat," said Kobyakov, adding that possible "military strikes" by these countries could also target Bushehr.

The Bushehr project was launched by Iran's last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in the 1970s. A German firm Kraftwerk-Union was chosen to build the plant but had to pull out after the Islamic revolution.

Iran signed up Russian nuclear industry construction firm Atomstroiexport in 1995 for a contract worth some 800 million dollars. The launch date for the reactor has been delayed several times.

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