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Iran Says Moscow Wants NPP Funding Ahead Of Time

Ali Larijani, secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tehran (RIA Novosti) Mar 09, 2007
Iran's top security official said Thursday Russia demanded payments for the construction of a nuclear power plant in southern Iran ahead of schedule. Russia said last month that Iran had an unpaid debt for its services to build the Islamic Republic's first NPP in Bushehr and warned the launch of the plant, slated for September, could be delayed.

"There are no financial problems, Russia has suggested that we make payments ahead of the timeframes stipulated in the contract," said Ali Larijani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. "Talks are being held with the Russians on the issue at the moment."

A delegation led by Mohammad Saidi, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization is in Moscow to resolve the financial dispute which could also delay nuclear fuel supplies that were due to start in March.

Six hours of talks Wednesday ended with no result, an official from Atomstroyexport, Russia's contractor for the project, said yesterday.

The company's chief financial officer said earlier Iran had made its last payment under the project January 17, adding Atomstroyexport had continued work despite the financial shortfall, which had hit its subcontractors and was slowing down construction.

Iran has repeatedly denied the delays in payments and demanded the project be completed according to schedule.

After the talks resumed Thursday, Atomstroyexport said it was studying Tehran's proposals to resolve the dispute.

"Active talks are being held at the moment. The Russian side is studying the Iranian partners' proposals to overcome the crisis in the construction of the Bushehr NPP," the official said without elaborating.

The $1 billion Bushehr facility has been a source of international dispute with the United States and other countries raising concerns that Iran could use the project as part of a covert nuclear weapons program. Iran has consistently denied that its nuclear program has military goals.

The five permanent UN Security Council members are currently discussing additional sanctions against Tehran, which ignored last month the UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment activities which can lead both to power generation and weapons production.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, voted Thursday to shut down or freeze 23 out of 55 projects with the Islamic Republic over its defiance of the nuclear demands.

Iran says will continue nuclear research after UN cut technical aid
Tehran, March 8 (RIA Novosti) - Iran will continue uranium enrichment activities despite the UN nuclear agency's decision to cut technical aid to the country, the Islamic Republic's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday.

The IAEA moved Thursday to shut down or suspend 23 out of 55 technical assistance projects with Iran over its defiance of UN demands to halt uranium enrichment used in both power generation and weapons production.

"None of the suspended projects is linked to Iran's enrichment activities, and the uranium enrichment program will be carried on in line with an agreement on guarantees with the IAEA [where Tehran reaffirms its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]," Ali Asgar Soltaneih said in Vienna.

The diplomat also said Tehran would not cut off ties with the international nuclear body.

The decision by the 35-nation Board of Governors fell in line with the UN Security Council's December 23 sanctions to punish a defiant Iran.

It came against the backdrop of the five permanent Security Council members discussing additional sanctions against Tehran, which could include a travel ban, the freezing of companies' and individuals' assets, an arms embargo and trade restrictions.

The countries also plan to continue diplomatic contacts with Tehran, which insists it has the right to conduct nuclear research for power generation purposes.

earlier related report
Iran A Stand-Off Between A Regional Power And A Superpower
by Pyotr Romanov
RIA Novosti political commentator Moscow (RIA Novosti) Mar 08, 2007 If we call a spade a spade, all the efforts to settle the Iranian problem over many months have been reminiscent of a counterproductive confrontation between irrational individualism and just-as-irrational collectivism. On the one hand, two individuals - Iran and the United States - were doing all they could to rule out any solutions but a military one.

On the other hand, the "collective wisdom" of the mediators in the conflict was locked in the maze of its own contradictions, and did not even remotely call to mind a think tank resolving a serious problem.

By and large, the alternating threats and evasive peace-loving protocol statements of Tehran and Washington may be ignored altogether. This was a clash of two mutually excluding egoistic interests, and the much-discussed nuclear predicament was not even the main issue.

The truth is that Tehran wants international recognition of its status as a regional power playing first fiddle in the Greater Middle East. Nuclear weapons are merely the general's insignia on the new uniform and additional trump cards in any political game. Tehran's ambitions are not unfounded - Iran feels that it is ready to play a new role, and renunciation of the current course would mean a serious setback. This is why it is so adamant in pursuing its interests.

In turn, although the United States is unhappy about the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons, they are far from being the main issue. After all, Washington does not mind a nuclear Pakistan. The main point is that Iran's desire to become a regional power runs counter to American interests in the Middle East. As a superpower, America does not want to share any of its influence with Iran.

Finally, the United States is bound to consider the fact that Iran's turning into a regional power has not been accompanied by fundamental domestic changes. Nobody has abolished the regime of ayatollahs in Iran. In this context, the U.S. views Iran as a potential enemy and does not want to let it build up its strength. The Americans want to resolve the inevitable problem as soon and with as few losses as possible because any delay would make this task much more difficult.

In a way, Tehran and Washington look like two mad drivers in a game of chicken. A collision is inevitable if one of them does not make a turn. But he who makes it will lose in the end. Needless to say, both will lose if they crash.

A war would prevent Iran from dominating the region for a long time and make nuclear weapons development totally unrealistic. For the United States its consequences would not be so tragic but would still be painful, especially considering the current unsolvable problems in Iraq.

It is clear why this war has not started already. The bitter reaction of the world community to the Iraq war has taught the U.S. to feign that it has been doing all it can to resolve the problem peacefully through the UN and mediators. But the deadline of this demonstration of respect for international law is about to expire.

Tehran is involved in a charade as well. It has been changing its position three times per day, but it will not be able to maneuver endlessly. Some analysts think that Tehran wants to stall for time until the presidential elections in the United States. I don't believe so.

The Iranians are bound to attribute Washington's current pacifist slogans to pre-election rhetoric. There will be some post-election changes in foreign policy but regardless of party affiliation, the U.S. elite has a uniform understanding of American interests in the Middle East. Iran will face problems regardless of who replaces Bush. Besides, he is not going to retire tomorrow.

I do not want to claim simply that war is bad and peace is good. But I'd like to say that talk about peace does not guarantee it. Irrational attitudes are current not only among individualists. A group of mediators has to find a common language themselves before persuading a potential fighter to be quiet. They don't always succeed.

The group of six countries negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program have managed to formulate only one sensible proposal, when Russia offered Tehran to enrich uranium for it under IAEA supervision. But Iran turned down even this rational suggestion.

The very attempt to reconcile the United States and Iran over a secondary nuclear issue is irrational. This is primarily a clash between an emergent regional power and an old superpower. Likewise, it is absurd that being a participant in the conflict, the U.S. is also an interested party and a go-between all in one. It is no surprise that the group of six cannot come to terms with itself.

Understandably, a potential U.S.-Iranian confrontation will not benefit the Middle East, the UN, or ordinary people. But has this realization ever averted a war?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Source: RIA Novosti

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UN Agency Debates Israel Nuclear Programme
Vienna (AFP) Mar 08, 2007
Iran branded Israel "a uniquely grave threat" to world peace because of its alleged nuclear weapons Thursday, after the UN atomic agency sharply cut aid to Tehran because of its own atomic programme. "Nuclear weapons in the hands of the Israeli regime with ... a long and dark catalogue of crimes and atrocity such as occupation, aggression, militarism, state terrorism, crimes against humanity and apartheid pose a uniquely grave threat to regional and international peace and security," Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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