02/28/2005, 00.00
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Moscow and Tehran sign nuclear deal

Despite international concerns and strong US opposition, Russia and Iran sign nuclear-fuel agreement.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russia will provide Iran with the nuclear fuel needed in the Islamic Republic's first nuclear power plant.

Alexander Rumyantsev, Moscow's top atomic energy official, and his Iranian counterpart Gholamreza Aghazadeh signed the agreement during a tour of the nuclear power plant Bushehr in southern Iran. The plant itself was built by the Soviets in the 1970s under the Shah's regime.

Under the agreement—which would cap an US$ 800 million contract to build and bring the plant on line—Russia will provide nuclear fuel and fire up the reactor on the condition that Iran returns spent fuel.

The condition was built into the deal as a concession to widespread international concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions. Tehran eventually accepted the condition after two years of negotiations.

Rumyantsev told Itar-Tass news agency that the agreement includes a confidential protocol setting out the schedule for delivery of fuel to the nuclear power station.

The physical start-up of the plant should occur at the end of 2006, with the fuel to be delivered about six months earlier. The quantity of fuel involved is around 100 tonnes

The US strongly objects to the agreement arguing that the new plant might be a cover for Tehran's intention to develop nuclear weapons.

In last Thursday's meeting in Bratislava (Slovakia), US President George Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed Iran's nuclear power plant. Both agreed that Iran should not build its own nuclear arsenal.

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See also
Iran “one or two years” from A-bomb, says Russian experts
Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor to start up in August
Tehran need not enriched nuclear fuel, Moscow will supply it
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