Russia, Iran to expand nuclear cooperation despite US pressure
By Vladimir Radyuhin
MOSCOW: Ignoring strong protests from Washington, Russia has moved to expand its nuclear cooperation with Iran, which could upgrade relations between Moscow and Teheran to the level of strategic partnership.
During a high-profile four-day visit to Iran this week the Russian Atomic Energy Minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, agreed to speed up the construction of a $1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor in Bushehr, to supply nuclear fuel for the power plant and to consider building more reactors.
Mr Rumyantsev said Russia was “extremely keen” to take part in Iran’s programme of building six more 1,000-mw nuclear reactors.
He also stated that Moscow had “no differences” with Teheran over the latter’s nuclear energy programme, which the US said could help Iran acquire nuclear weapons.
Russia’s decision to expand nuclear cooperation with Iran comes in the midst of a mounting US crusade against the “axis of evil” countries, which include Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Earlier this month the US made a last-minute attempt to derail the Bushehr nuclear project by publishing satellite pictures of what Washington said were two facilities under construction in Iran to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.
The move was specifically aimed at stopping Russia from supplying uranium fuel for the Bushehr power plant, which theoretically can be reprocessed in weapon-grade uranium.
“Clearly a country that acquires 90 tons of nuclear fuel, even if this is peaceful material, far from the weapon-grade quality, dramatically increases its political weight,” the Izvestia daily said, commenting on the undercurrent motives of Washington’s concerns.
The Russian Atomic Energy Minister, Mr Rumyantsev, described the US concerns as “groundless.” For one thing, Iran’s nuclear programme is under close supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Secondly, Iran has agreed to return all spent fuel back to Russia.
“Nuclear fuel will be supplied in keeping with international accords and under IAEA control,” Mr Rumyantsev said.
Russia has been steadily expanding ties with Iran since the milestone visit of the Iranian President, Mohammed Khatami, to Moscow in March 2001.
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, agreed to resume defence supplies to Iran that were suspended in 1995 due to American pressure and approved a 10-year plan to upgrade economic links with Iran in nuclear and conventional energy, hydrocarbons, aircraft building, communications and metal industry.
If implemented these plans will make Iran Russia’s third strategic partner in Asia after India and China.
An intriguing aspect of Russia’s growing nuclear cooperation with Iran is that it is unlikely to spoil Moscow’s new partnership with Washington in the global war on terror.
In the post-11/9 dispensation Russia has proved to be a valuable enough ally of the US to feel free to pursue its strategic interests without provoking a crisis in relations with the world’s only superpower. —The Hindu