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. Russia vows to keep schedule for Iran nuclear plant
TEHRAN, Jan 28 (AFP) Jan 28, 2007
Russia's security chief Igor Ivanov vowed to launch Iran's nuclear plant on schedule in September after talks in Tehran on Sunday with leaders of the Islamic republic.

"Russia is determined and serious in fulfilling its obligation to finish Bushehr plant on the scheduled date," Ivanov was quoted as saying after meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also emphasised the need to complete the nuclear plant on time after meeting Ivanov, who delivered a message from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Cooperation and previous commitments should gain momentum and be carried out," Khamenei was quoted as saying on state television.

In September 2006, Russia and Iran signed an agreement setting September 2007 as the deadline for the launch of the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power station which lies on the Gulf coast in southwestern Iran.

The plant will actually produce electricity from November, and the nuclear fuel for the plant is to be delivered no later than March.

Ivanov, the secretary of Russia's Security Council, also met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Before concluding his one-day trip to Tehran, Ivanov implicitly asked Iranians to consider UN watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei's recent recommendation for a "timeout" in the showdown over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The proposal would have the UN suspend sanctions and Tehran halt uranium enrichment at the same time.

"It is a proposal which can be taken into consideration because it envisions a suspension of enrichment and a suspension of the enforcement of resolution 1737, and this may allow an attempt at finding a political solution to the crisis," Lavrov told reporters.

Iran's national security chief and top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said ElBaradei's proposal needed further examination.

"The Iranian nuclear question is a multifaceted question and cannot be answered in one line, the different proposals must be developed to be taken into account. We must study them to see if they have a capacity to solve the problem," he told reporters.

The deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Saeedi echoed Larijani's response.

"It is an idea that needs to be developed," Saeedi said.

Russia supports Iran's right to peaceful nuclear technology but voted for a UN Security Council resolution in December that imposes sanctions on Tehran over its repeated refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

Iran gave conflicting signals about its nuclear work on Saturday with its atomic energy agency denying a statement by a senior MP that Tehran had started to install 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Uranium enrichment lies at the centre of fears about Iran's nuclear ambitions as the process can make the fissile core of an atom bomb as well as nuclear fuel.

Tehran says its nuclear drive is aimed at peaceful energy generation, vehemently denying charges that it plans to build an atomic bomb.

The United States has warned its arch-foe Iran of "universal" opposition if it proceeds with plans to beef up its nuclear capacity by installing the centrifuges.

The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions to pressure Iran to stop uranium enrichment, which makes fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but also the explosive core of atom bombs.

ElBaradei is due to report to the UN Security Council by February 21 on whether Iran has suspended enrichment.

If not, sanctions could be tightened and there is increased speculation about a US or Israeli pre-emptive military attack to stop Iran's nuclear drive.

In a joint statement with India on Thursday, Russia called for "diplomacy and dialogue" in the worsening dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, but also urged Tehran to comply with UN demands.

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