Region: Russia to help build Iran’s nuclear plant
MOSCOW: Russia intends to complete the construction of Iran’s first nuclear power plant despite pressure from the United States, the country’s atomic energy minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Russia “is satisfied with the pace of construction of the Bushehr plant, and is confident that the launch of its first bloc will be completed on time,” the Prime Tass news agency quoted Alexander Rumyantsev as saying.
His comments came less than a week before a key summit in Saint Petersburg between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart George W. Bush. US officials earlier said that Russia’s controversial cooperation with Iran, to which Washington objects, will by high on the agenda of the June 1 talks.
In February, the United States renewed accusations that Iran was using its Bushehr light-water reactor to secretly advance a nuclear weapons program and called once again on Russia to stop cooperating on the project. Russia insists that its nuclear aid to Iran is for purely civilian purposes, but admitted last month that it was concerned that Tehran may be enriching uranium with a view to developing nuclear weapons.
Iran in February revealed that it was building an array of facilities to exploit uranium deposits which would make it self-sufficient in nuclear fuel. However Russia’s construction of Bushehr has faced several delays. In August, Rumyantsev announced that Bushehr would begin operating in June 2004 — nearly six months later than originally scheduled..
Rumyantsev conceded on Tuesday that “there has been a correction in the construction schedule,” but did not specify when he though the first Bushehr bloc may go on line. He stressed during a meeting with Iran’s deputy atomic energy minister Asadollah Saburi: “We will continue to fulfill our obligations despite the fact that our views on this do not correspond with those of Washington.” A high-placed US official in Moscow said earlier this month that Rumyantsev had given his assurances that Russia would not construct any more blocs at Bushehr after completing construction of the first one. Rumyantsev added Tuesday that a Iran’s atomic energy minister Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh would visit Moscow in June. —AFP
Beijing denies Chinese company helped Iran’s missile program
BEIJING: China on Tuesday denied that any local company had provided assistance to Iran’s missile program, reacting to sanctions by the US government. “No relevant Chinese company has assisted relevant programs in Iran,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue told a regular briefing. “We’re against any organization using any method to engage in proliferation,” she said. The US State Department last week announced the termination of all existing contracts between the US government and the North China Industries Corporation, or NORINCO, as well as an Iranian company. The United States imposed the sanctions after it determined NORINCO had helped Iran “use, acquire, design, develop, produce or stockpile missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction,” according to a US official. A key supplier of the People’s Liberation Army of China, NORINCO also has a visible presence in the US market as an exporter of hunting rifles and other firearms. Zhang said China had introduced tighter rules on missile technology exports in August last year. a“ These rules have been implemented strictly and efficiently,” she said. —AFP