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. Russia-Iran nuclear talks against backdrop of Georgia crisis
MOSCOW , Sept 12 (AFP) Sep 12, 2008
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks Friday with his Iranian counterpart amid Western concerns over the two countries' nuclear cooperation heightened by the Georgia crisis.

Lavrov said he and Manouchehr Mottaki would discuss Russia's conflict with Georgia and the imminent completion by a Russian company of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, the country's first, Interfax news agency reported.

"We will consider agreements... which are developing well," above all over the completion of nuclear work at Bushehr, Lavrov was quoted as saying before the talks.

The head of the Russian company working on the facility, Atomstroiexport, said earlier this week that the start-up of the first reactor at Bushehr would be "irreversible" by February next year.

The West suspects that Iran is developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program that includes the Bushehr plant. It has imposed sanctions on Teheran and refused to rule out the use of force.

Tehran vehemently denies that it is developing nuclear weapons and says that it has a sovereign right like any country to develop nuclear power.

Lavrov said talks would also focus on the Georgia conflict, which has led to a diplomatic stand-off between Moscow and the West over the fate of two breakaway Georgian regions, Interfax reported.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday blamed foreign interference as well as Tbilisi's leadership for the crisis in Georgia and called on regional powers to come to a peaceful resolution.

Last month he made a scathing attack on NATO expansion plans in the former Soviet Union, which have been blamed for raising tensions between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbours including pro-Western Georgia.

US President George W. Bush announced this week that he was freezing progress on a US-Russia civilian nuclear cooperation pact because of Russia's military intervention in Georgia.

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