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Russia completes fuel deliveries to Iran’s first nuclear plant

By RIA Novosti

Tehran : Russia delivered Monday the final fuel shipment to the Bushehr nuclear power plant it is building in southern Iran, the Islamic Republic’s nuclear officials said.

With the eighth consignment of five tonnes of nuclear fuel delivered, Russia has supplied a total of 82 tonnes of low-enriched uranium to the light-water nuclear power plant, which has been the focus of international attention over fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The first delivery of fuel to the plant, being built by Russian contractor Atomstroyexport, arrived on Dec 16, 2007 following months of project delays that Moscow attributed to payment arrears, but which Iran blamed on pressure from Western nations.

Under a bilateral intergovernmental contract, Russia has agreed to deliver 82 tonnes of nuclear fuel in eight shipments.

Deliveries were monitored by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham earlier said Tehran expects bilateral relations to substantially improve as a result of the fuel deliveries.

“Russia and Iran maintain good, developing relations. The deliveries of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant are also a good pretext for boosting cooperation between our countries,” he said.

US President George W. Bush, who has led international calls for sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze its nuclear programme, said last month that he supported the start of Russia’s enriched uranium deliveries to the Islamic Republic, and that Tehran no longer has any excuse to develop its own enrichment capabilities.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed Bush’s comments in late December, saying it would not be economically viable for Iran to continue its uranium enrichment programme.

However, Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali-Hamenei insisted earlier this month that Tehran would continue enriching uranium for future nuclear power plants.

Two sets of UN Security Council sanctions are currently in place against Tehran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

The five permanent UN Security Council members or the P5 – the US, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany agreed on Jan 22 at talks in Berlin on a draft for new measures against the Islamic Republic, strengthening two previous rounds of sanctions but falling short of the punitive steps proposed by Washington.

The draft was circulated on Friday in the Security Council and may be discussed by the end of this week.

“We hope that the Security Council will not make the wrong decisions, knowing that there are no grounds for doing so,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said last Saturday in Davos, Switzerland.

He reiterated that last year the IAEA issued a generally positive report on Tehran’s cooperativeness with UN inspectors, and a US intelligence community report stated that the country had dropped nuclear weapons research several years ago.

Tehran plans to hold tenders for the construction of 19 new reactors and to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity at its nuclear power plants in the next two decades.