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. Russia's nuclear plant may not meet Iranian timeframe
WASHINGTON, July 3 (AFP) Jul 03, 2007
Russia indicated Tuesday that a nuclear reactor plant it is constructing in Iran could not be completed in two months as expected by Tehran, citing "technical and economic questions."

Russian news agencies had quoted a senior Iranian nuclear official as saying that Tehran hoped to start operations at the Bushehr power plant soon after its completion in two months.

But Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Kislyak, speaking at a press conference in Washington, said the time frame was "too ambitious."

He was asked to comment about the differences between Russia and Iran on the project and on reported remarks by Mohamed Amiri, the head of a group of Iranian nuclear and radiation safety agencies, that the plant would be completed by September and that Russian delivery of atomic fuel was imminent.

"What I know about the timing is that it would be, I think ... too ambitious to say that it would be completed within two months," Kislyak said.

"It's not doable, physically, because the state of development requires, I think, a number of additional months to complete it. And certainly, they need to sort out all these technical and economic questions that need to be resolved," he said, without elaborating on the problems.

"So the issue of sending fuel to Iran is not something that we'll have to resolve tomorrow," he said.

The project has been hit by successive delays and mutual accusations that either side were not living up to their financial obligations.

The Unites States, which is leading international efforts to stop Iran's controversial nuclear activities, has urged Russia to halt work on the plant.

Iranian officials have on occasion accused Russia of being half-hearted in finishing the project at a time when the United States is pushing for more sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

But Kislyak stressed that work on the Bushehr plant would continue, saying it was "fully compliant with all the requirements" of the global atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and based on a "win-win" formula.

"And I would say that the arrangement around Bushehr is an example of what Iran would be well-advised to choose as a method and way of developing its nuclear energy, whereby it gets a reactor based on cooperation with other countries," he said.

"And from the point of view of nonproliferation, it's one of the best schemes one can envisage," he said.

Robert Joseph, the special US envoy on nuclear non-proliferation who was with Kislyak at the news conference, accused Iran of violating its nuclear safeguards agreement.

"Iran, of course, is in violation of its safeguards obligations and there are many questions that are still outstanding with regard to the IAEA's investigation of the Iranian nuclear program," he said.'

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