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. Iran close to deal with Russia to end nuclear delays
BUSHEHR, Iran, April 3 (AFP) Apr 03, 2007
A Russian delegation will visit Tehran this week to resolve problems holding up the completion of Iran's first nuclear power plant, a top Iranian atomic official said on Tuesday.

The completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant being built by Russia and the delivery of nuclear fuel -- scheduled for this year -- have been repeatedly delayed amid mutual accusations of financial problems.

"In the next two or three days the Russians will come to Tehran to sign an agreement to solve the financial problems of Atomstroiexport," the Russian firm building the plant, said Gholam Reza Aghazadeh.

"The Russians have told us that since their company does not have money 'you need to help us financially'. A framework has been found to solve their financial problems," added Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation.

Under a deal reached between Tehran and Moscow last September, Russia was to deliver nuclear fuel to Iran in March, the power station would begin working in September and it would start producing energy in November.

Aghazadeh said that Russia's slowness in delivering nuclear fuel to Iran underlined the importance for Tehran to produce the fuel on its own soil and master the controversial process of uranium enrichment.

"Not giving us the fuel proves our case that you cannot trust the West to deliver fuel and it also proves we have to seriously pursue uranium enrichment in order to have a level of security," he said.

The West wants the Islamic republic to suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used to make both fuel and nuclear weapons, as proof that it is not seeking an atomic bomb.

Iran has repeatedly said it has no intention of freezing the activity, despite the UN Security Council sanctions which have been slapped on Tehran.

Aghazadeh, speaking to reporters on a government plane heading to the southern city to inaugurate a new electricity installation at the plant, repeated Tehran's accusations that the issue had been politicised.

"There is no doubt that the matter of Bushehr has been politicised but the talk of them not delivering is not true.

Russia has blamed non-existent Iranian payments for the lack of progress although Iran has hinted that pressure on Moscow from the United States is to blame.

Washington accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons but the Islamic republic denies the charges, insisting its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating energy.

"Our interpretation is the delay on the delivery of the fuel is a political one but all in all they know we to build more nuclear power stations and Iran is a sure market for them," said Aghazadeh.

Iran has repeatedly said it wants to build more nuclear power stations once the reactor in Bushehr goes on line.

"This political error will come to an end and at that time the government will assess who is more reliable," he said.

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