Iran Nuclear NewsU.S. seeks guarantees over Iran nuclear reactor

U.S. seeks guarantees over Iran nuclear reactor


Reuters: The United States wants guarantees that a Russian-built nuclear reactor in Iran will not advance a weapons program but does not think differences over the issue will block a U.N. sanctions resolution against Tehran, a senior U.S. official said on Monday. By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States wants guarantees that a Russian-built nuclear reactor in Iran will not advance a weapons program but does not think differences over the issue will block a U.N. sanctions resolution against Tehran, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

The Bushehr power plant in southwestern Iran is due to begin operation early next year. The Russians want the project to go ahead. A sanctions resolution against Iran is being haggled over in New York and exempts Bushehr, although Washington has previously urged work at the plant stopped.

The U.S. position has eased in recent days and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he did not see the Bushehr deal as blocking the U.N. resolution against Iran, which follows Tehran’s refusal to give up uranium enrichment activities by an August 31 deadline.

Iran says its nuclear program is for power generation purposes and not to build an atomic bomb.

“Our belief is that it (the Bushehr plant) shouldn’t pose an obstacle to passage of the kind of resolution that we, as well as others, think needs to be passed in this regard,” McCormack told reporters.

He said the United States wanted objective guarantees that safeguards laid out by the Russian government over the years — including for spent fuel to be returned to Russia so it could not be diverted for weapons use — would be met.

“(These safeguards) would allow for, first of all, the construction to take place; second of all, the fuel to be delivered, monitored and then returned, once it had already been used,” he said.

“Essentially, what you would be talking about is dealing with a preexisting construction project in which there are some objective guarantees,” he added.

The nuclear fuel for the plant is only set to be delivered in the early part of next year, and the Bush administration is hoping this issue will be resolved by then.


“There’s a lot of time between now and then. We’ll see what the Iranian behavior brings us and we’ll see what the final outcome is with regard to this particular resolution,” said McCormack.

The U.N. resolution, drafted by Europeans in consultation with the United States, has now been sent to all 15 U.N. Security Council members.

It exempts Bushehr from sanctions but says Russia must check with a Security Council committee if it delivers material that can be used for weapons.

No meeting is scheduled yet, although one is expected later this week among the five permanent Security Council members with veto power — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — as well as Germany, a key negotiator.

Participants close to the negotiations said Russia, among other complaints, was objecting to Bushehr being included in the resolution in the first place as it was legal under the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, after a meeting of the six powers last Thursday said of Bushehr, “It has nothing to do (with the resolution) because it’s a peaceful nuclear facility which we have been helping Iran to build in full conformity with the Nonproliferation Treaty.”

U.N. negotiations are expected to take at least another two weeks. McCormack declined to predict a date but said he hoped it would be before the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday which is at the end of November.

The resolution would ban Iranian trade in nuclear materials and ballistic missiles, freeze assets abroad and impose a travel ban on people or entities involved.

(Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold in New York)

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