Iran close to deal with Russia to end N-delays

( IranMania ) - A Russian delegation will visit Tehran this week to resolve problems holding up the completion of Iran's first nuclear power plant, a top Iranian atomic official said, AFP reported.

The completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant being built by Russia and the delivery of nuclear fuel, scheduled for this year, have been repeatedly delayed amid mutual accusations of financial problems.

"In the next two or three days the Russians will come to Tehran to sign an agreement to solve the financial problems of Atomstroiexport," the Russian firm building the plant, said Gholam Reza Aghazadeh.

"The Russians have told us that since their company does not have money 'you need to help us financially'. A framework has been found to solve their financial problems," added Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation.

Russia's federal atomic energy agency, Rosatom, confirmed that progress had been made on the payments issue but warned Iran not to get into arrears again.

"It is a good thing that our Iranian colleagues have overcome their difficulties in payments for the Bushehr plant and we hope that in the future Tehran's payments will come in accordance with the agreed schedule," Rosatom chief Sergei Kirienko told Russian media.

Russia had accused Iran of not paying the amounts agreed upon in a deal reached last September on the construction and nuclear fuel supply to the plant, but at the end of March, Moscow acknowledged that Tehran had relaunched its payments.

"For the first quarter of 2007, Russia received 15 mln dollars (11 mln euros) from Iran, 10 mln of which came at the end of March," Kirienko said, pointing out that Tehran had previously agreed to pay Russia between 23 and 25 mln dollars per month.

Under a deal reached between Tehran and Moscow last September, Russia was to deliver nuclear fuel to Iran in March, the power station would begin working in September and it would start producing energy in November.

Aghazadeh said that Russia's slowness in delivering nuclear fuel to Iran underlined the importance for Tehran of producing the fuel on its own soil and mastering the controversial process of uranium enrichment.

"Not giving us the fuel proves our case that you cannot trust the West to deliver fuel and it also proves we have to seriously pursue uranium enrichment in order to have a level of security," he said.

The West wants the Islamic republic to suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used to make both fuel and nuclear weapons, as proof that it is not seeking an atomic bomb.

Iran has repeatedly said it has no intention of freezing the activity, despite the UN Security Council sanctions which have been slapped on Tehran.

Aghazadeh, speaking to reporters on a government plane heading to the southern city to inaugurate a new electricity installation at the plant, repeated Tehran's accusations that the issue had been politicised.

"There is no doubt that the matter of Bushehr has been politicised but the talk of them not delivering is not true.

Russia has blamed non-existent Iranian payments for the lack of progress although Iran has hinted that pressure on Moscow from the United States is to blame.

Washington accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons but the Islamic republic denies the charges, insisting its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating energy.

"Our interpretation is the delay on the delivery of the fuel is a political one but all in all they know we to build more nuclear power stations and Iran is a sure market for them," said Aghazadeh.

Iran has repeatedly said it wants to build more nuclear power stations once the reactor in Bushehr goes on line.

"This political error will come to an end and at that time the government will assess who is more reliable," he said.

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