Putin reaffirms commitment to complete Iran’s nuclear plant


Tehran : Russia will complete Iran’s first nuclear power plant in Bushehr on schedule, President Vladimir Putin has said, asserting the delay in completion of the plant had no political reason.

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“Russia is seriously working to complete it as soon as possible,” Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Putin as saying.

Putin said that Russia would not give in to political pressure by the West over the Bushehr plant and “have already told the West to be ready for the plant’s start”, according to IRNA.

Meeting after the second Caspian Sea littoral states summit Tuesday, Putin and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreed to expand ties and continue their nuclear cooperation.

The Russian president told IRNA that there were issues, which should be settled between the two parties. “Experts from Iran and Russia are currently working to resolve the issues,” he said.

Asked about the delivery of fuel by Russia, Putin said fuel should be delivered three months ahead of putting the reactor into operation.

“We have signed agreement with Iranian friends according to which the burnt fuel should be returned to Russia. Experts will discuss this issue.”

Putin’s visit to Iran, the first by a Russian or Soviet leader since 1943, and his statements come amid a standoff between Western states and the Islamic Republic, which is accused of developing nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charge. The US has urged a new, tougher, set of sanctions on Iran, and has refused to rule out a military operation against the regime.

During the talks, Putin invited his Iranian counterpart to visit Russia, saying the date of the visit was to be coordinated through diplomatic channels, according to RIA Novosti.

Prior to the talks getting underway, Putin told reporters that Russia would support Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme but stressed that the country should be “faithful” to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

DPA adds from Washington: US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the US believes Russia remains committed to ensuring Iran does not develop nuclear weapons despite the cooperation between the two countries.

“I don’t think we have any concerns that the Russian government is moving away from that consensus or does not share the basic concerns that we and other members of the international community share with respect to Iran,” Casey said.

The most recent agreement between the two sides signed in September last year in Moscow envisioned the supply of nuclear fuel by March 2007, the physical launch of the plant in September and energy launch in November 2007, but the project has been delayed.