Iran Nuclear NewsIran, Russia Postpone Nuclear Fuel Signing

Iran, Russia Postpone Nuclear Fuel Signing

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AP: Last-minute disputes Saturday forced Iran and Russia to postpone the signing of an agreement to supply Iran with fuel for its first nuclear reactor, a deal strongly opposed by the United States. The countries’ top nuclear officials had been set to sign the agreement on Saturday morning, a day after a summit between the U.S. and Russian presidents.
Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

TEHRAN, Iran – Last-minute disputes Saturday forced Iran and Russia to postpone the signing of an agreement to supply Iran with fuel for its first nuclear reactor, a deal strongly opposed by the United States.

The countries’ top nuclear officials had been set to sign the agreement on Saturday morning, a day after a summit between the U.S. and Russian presidents.

But after hours of delay, Yacoub Jabbarian, an official at Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters that talks had been prolonged and it was not clear when the signing would take place. He did not give the reason for the delay.

An Iranian nuclear official speaking on condition of anonymity said “deep differences” had arisen, but would not elaborate.

The agreement would pave the way for Tehran to open its nuclear reactor at Bushehr, with Russia providing it fuel then taking back the spent uranium, a safeguard meant to banish fears Iran would use it to build nuclear weapons.

Still, Washington has pressed Moscow to call off the deal, saying the Iranians could use the Bushehr reactor as part of a nuclear weapons program. The U.S.-Russian summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Thursday touched on U.S. concerns. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is sure Iran does not intend to build nuclear weapons and Russian cooperation with the country would go ahead.

The head of Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, arrived in Tehran Friday night ahead of the signing with Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s agency. Journalists were called in for a press conference scheduled to follow the signing Saturday – but Jabbarian announced that the conference was canceled.

The agreement has been repeatedly delayed by what Iranian and Russian officials called technical and financial details. But diplomats in Vienna – where the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is based – say U.S. pressure on Russia has also held up the deal.

Diplomats in Vienna said Friday that the two countries have announced in the past that a deal was imminent only to see it fall through.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons – a claim denied by Tehran, which has agreed to IAEA monitoring at Bushehr and says its nuclear program aims only to produce electricity. The United States has long urged Moscow to conclude its assistance to Iran’s nuclear development.

Russia helped build the $800 million reactor at Bushehr, in southern Iran, whose construction is now complete. It is a light water reactor capable of generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Experts say that spent fuel from the Bushehr reactor could be used to produce enough plutonium to make 30 rudimentary atomic bombs a year.

Russia could be delivering nuclear fuel to Iran within two months of the deal’s signing, Rumyantsev spokesman Nikolai Shingarov told The Associated Press last week.

Russian officials insist that the deal to return the spent fuel would make it impossible for Iran to divert the fuel for a weapons program. After the agreement is signed, “there will be no grounds to state that Iran may use nuclear fuel for other than peaceful purposes,” the Russian ambassador to Iran, Alexander Maryasov, was quoted as saying Friday by Russia’s ITAR-Tass news agency.

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