Iran receives second batch of nuclear fuel from Russia

( RIA Novosti ) - The second shipment of nuclear fuel was delivered from Russia to Iran for its Bushehr nuclear power plant on Friday, the state news agency IRNA said.

Russia supplied the first batch of 82 metric tons of nuclear fuel to the Islamic Republic on December 17. Moscow said the supplies should persuade Tehran to halt its disputed uranium enrichment program.

"The second shipment was delivered according to the agreed timetable," Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said as quoted by the agency.

Russian nuclear fuel deliveries to the plant are to continue into February 2008.

Iran's nuclear program has been at the center of an international dispute, with Western countries suspecting Tehran of covering up a weapons program and Iran saying it needs nuclear fuel for energy.

The $1 billion Bushehr, being built by Russia, came under threat in February when Russia cited payment delays. Iran denied any funding problems and accused Russia of deliberately stalling the project in response to pressure from Western powers.

Russian officials later said the Bushehr project was being carried out under the complete control of the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Spent Russian fuel is to be re-exported for reprocessing and storage, according to a bilateral Russian-Iranian agreement. In Iran, the nuclear fuel will be under UN control.

Iran has said it will carry on with uranium enrichment activities despite nuclear fuel supplies from Russia. Tehran plans to announce a tender for the construction of 19 new 1,000-MW nuclear power plants in the Islamic Republic. He blamed Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup but recently retired from the army, for creating instability.

Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in November in what was seen as an attempt to stop the judiciary from vetoing his re-election as president. He lifted emergency rule this month.

Authorities ordered the central bank and all schools across Pakistan to close for three days of mourning.

The United States, which relies on Pakistan as an ally against al Qaeda and the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, had championed the Harvard- and Oxford-educated Bhutto, seeing in her the best hope of a return to democracy.

"The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy," President George W. Bush said.

Bush telephoned Musharraf and urged Pakistanis to honour Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process and holding elections as scheduled.

Reporters asked Prime Minister Soomro if any decision had been made on postponing the polls in light of Bhutto's death, "Nothing yet," he replied. "Elections stand as they were announced."

But analysts said the assassination, which followed a wave of suicide attacks and the worsening of an Islamist insurgency, could make it impossible to go ahead with the election on time.

Musharraf condemned the attack on Bhutto, in which a total of 16 people were killed, and called for calm.

"We will not sit and rest until we get rid of these terrorists, root them out," he said. He did not mention the poll.

In 1988, aged just 35, Bhutto became the Muslim world's first democratically elected woman prime minister. Deposed in 1990, she was re-elected in 1993, and ousted again in 1996 amid charges of corruption she said were politically motivated.

Along with her husband, she is survived by a son Bilawal, 19, and two daughters, Bakhtawar, 17 and Aseefa, 14.

Bhutto's husband said the government should step down.

"We demand the immediate resignation of the government. Those who were responsible for the attack on October 18 are also responsible for this attack," he told Reuters by telephone.

He did not elaborate but referred to a letter Bhutto wrote to Musharraf before she returned to Pakistan in which she said if she were attacked, some of Musharraf's allies and a security agency would be responsible.

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