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MOSCOW, Oct 13 (AFP) - Russia said Monday it would push back by one year the launch of the Bushehr nuclear power reactor in Iran while denying suggestions the delay was forced by pressure from the United States or Israel.
"Right now our specialists are drawing up a detailed plan for the plant and the start-up is set for 2005" as opposed to 2004, Nikolai Shingaryev, a senior spokesman for the atomic energy ministry, told AFP by telephone.
"The reasons are purely technical, not political," he said. "There is a huge amount of equipment that is needed. Equipment (that we thought) would work is not going to work," he said.
Russia is building the Islamic state's first nuclear power reactor, but says it will not begin delivering nuclear fuel needed to operate the plant until Tehran signs a deal pledging to return the spent material to Russia.
That fuel could be used to develop low-grade nuclear weapons once reprocessed, a weapon commonly known as a "dirty bomb."
Iran has balked at signing the agreement, and a Russian atomic energy ministry official told ITAR-TASS that Moscow was now prepared to sell the fuel -- which has already been prepared and is being stored in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk -- "to another nation or within Russia."
Moscow's announcement came as Tehran confronts international pressure to meet an October 31 deadline to reassure the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, that it is not seeking to produce nuclear weapons.
Shingaryev admitted that Russia was "constantly talking" with US and Israeli officials about Bushehr.
Meanwhile the Russian foreign ministry said Russia was not dropping the Bushehr deal outright because Tehran has not yet been recognized to be in breach of international agreements on nuclear weapons.
"We are continuing to cooperate with Iran because there have not been any instructions to the contrary from the IAEA," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told reporters."
Separately, an unnamed official told ITAR-TASS that Russia and Iran would agree on a firm date for the Bushehr project's launch in future negotiations, but did not specify when those talks might be held.
The atomic energy ministry official added that the delay meant that Iran was unlikely to receive electricity from the Bushehr plant before 2006 at the earliest.
There was some confusion among officials as to what caused the snag.
Shingaryev said it was partly because constructors have realized that equipment provided to Bushehr by Germany's Siemens in the 1970s was outdated.
Germany halted Bushehr's construction during the 1979 Iranian revolution, and abandoned the project completely three years later.
However, an unnamed atomic energy ministry official told ITAR-TASS that the delay was caused by the Iranians.
He said that Iran has failed to purchase equipment for the plant "from third parties."
Moscow officials have earlier claimed that negotiations over the Bushehr plant have broken down over Iran's demand for Russia to buy back the spent fuel.
The request is highly unusual since spent fuel in such deals is almost always sent back for free, and the Iranian request was not part of the original Bushehr contract.
Some observers say that Moscow is deliberately dragging its feet to pressure Iran to come clean with UN inspectors over its nuclear program.
I can't really see why a nation like Iran should have any thing that could possibly be used in a terrorist attack, nor why a failed nation likethe USSR should be trusted with getting these materials back. Since the USSR has had tons of these exact same materials, plus other NBC weapons, disappear from under her nose, I'd say that they are about as capable of monitoring Iranian nuclear waste as Micheal Moore is of seeing his toes.
-------------------- In response to an attack killing 15 American Servicemen
Just give em a little more time, the iraqis are making great progress. And this is unorganized. Wait till they get organized.
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