Iran has yet to resume payments for a nuclear power plant Russia is constructing at Bushehr, and Moscow does not intend to pay for the plant’s construction, a Russian atomic energy official said Friday.
“We cannot finish this plant at our own expense,” Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said in comments run by Interfax. Kiriyenko’s comments come as Moscow says the plant’s planned launch date of September 2007 will be pushed back at least two months due to Iran’s failure to provide financing.
Negotiations on Bushehr’s construction begun in Tehran this week are to continue through the weekend. Atomstroiexport, the Russian state-controlled company overseeing construction, said Friday that it hoped talks would be completed early next week.
Russia has said Iran ended monthly payments of 25 million dollars in January, but Tehran claims it has provided all necessary financing.
Iranian leaders have also upped their rhetoric in the past week, with Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, questioning Moscow’s “reliability” and saying it had “politicized” Bushehr. The 850 million-dollar plant was begun in the 1970s by Germany’s Siemens but then abandoned after the Shah’s overthrow. Atomstroiexport agreed in 1995 to finish the facility’s construction.
As problems surrounding Bushehr emerged, Moscow began earlier in the week to express annoyance at the political capital its support of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme has cost it. The West has pushed for tough sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, but Moscow – along with China -has traditionally signalled it would veto punitive measures.
Mikhail Margelov, a leading Russian parliamentarian, on Wednesday said Iran’s violation of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency’s orders would not be in Moscow’s interests. Apparently, Moscow doesn’t want to be dragged into “anti-American games” by a recalcitrant Tehran.
It is unclear whether the recent financing issue at Bushehr will affect Russia’s position on a Security Council sanctions plan due to be discussed Wednesday in New York. The United States has already voiced its support for Russia’s current stance: US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Friday in Washington that the United States “fully supported” Russia’s approach toward Bushehr, adding that the two countries shared a “united philosophy”, Itar-Tass reported. Burns further added that Washington was in favour of Iran having access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes via Russian technology and fuel supplies.
Russia is maybe realizing that the current iranian leadership is unstable and in a transition, with ajatollah Khamenei severely sick and president Ahmadinejad isolated by his own internal enemies. Being in compliance with the UN resolutions embargoeing technology to Tehran could be very useful for Moscow in order to negotiate with the U.S. on other issues and to avoid troubles with an “irrational” Iran, in a region very close to Russia’s southern borders.