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. Ex-UN inspector Blix backs Russia's Iran nuclear supplies
MOSCOW, Dec 18 (AFP) Dec 18, 2007
Russia's decision to supply nuclear fuels to Iran strips Tehran of its claim to need to develop its own uranium-enriching capabilities, the former UN head of weapons inspections said Tuesday.

Iran has predicted that its first nuclear power plant, at Bushehr, will go fully live in 12 months time, thanks to a delivery from Moscow of nuclear fuel.

"If Russia had refused to deliver the fuel to Bushehr, I think the Iranians might have said 'there you are, we are right, we cannot trust anybody and that's why we need to have our own capability'," Blix said from Stockholm in a teleconference interview with Moscow.

"From that point of view, I understand these deliveries," the 79-year old Swedish diplomat said. "I don't see anything in any of the resolutions of the (UN) Security Council that forms an obstacle to the delivery of the fuel for the reactors."

The 1,000 megawatt plant in the southern city of Bushehr could come on line within three months at up to 200 megawatts before being cranked up to full capacity nine months later, Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, said on Monday.

"We have passed a key and critical stage now" with the delivery of the fuel from Russia, he was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA agency.

Blix, the former head of the UN nuclear weapons inspection team for Iraq, urged a better combination of carrots and sticks with Iran, which is suspected of trying to become a nuclear weapons power.

"We have to see what are the positive incentives, the carrots we could use with Iran," he said, in particular "the offer of opening up of diplomatic relations," with Tehran by those countries who currently shun it, and a "offer of no attack."

At the press conference, a former head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC), Rolf Ekeus, said: "The Bushehr reactor should be under IAEA control. I feel very comfortable with Bushehr and I'm not worried about it."

The Russian foreign minister has insisted that the delivery of nuclear fuels was made "under the control" of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Speaking at the same press conference, the former Israeli Mossad agent and former foreign affairs advisor to the Israeli prime minister, Uzi Arad, said: "With the supply of such fuel there is no urgent need for Iran to enrich uranium.

"It's a very valid point and it should be stressed, and the supply of this fuel now has become in a way a test and therefore it should be used as such. It has a very powerful logic to it.

"Israel has just too many indicators to suggest that Iran is pursuing military capabilities."

Russian arms expert Vladimir Dvorkin, an academic from the Academy of Sciences who has helped draft many international arms treaties, said: "I have almost no doubt that Iran has everything it needs, except perhaps for enriched uranium."

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