|RUSSIA TO SPUR BUSHEHR NUCLEAR PROJECT
TEHRAN. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov)
Moscow intends to speed up the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power
plant in Iran.
Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal Nuclear Power Agency, who
led a delegation to Tehran earlier this week, convinced the Iranian
authorities to meet Russian nuclear-equipment export monopoly
Atomstroyexport halfway in solving Bushehr’s long-standing problems.
The highlight of Kiriyenko’s visit was his meeting with Vice President
Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.
During a news conference after the talks, Iranian officials tried to put
the issue in a political context. “The two countries have mustered the
necessary political will to ensure the inauguration of the NPP on the
planned date,” Aghazadeh told journalists.
But Kiriyenko was more realistic: “Moscow sees no political obstacles to
inaugurating the Bushehr plant on the agreed date, but Russia will work in
Bushehr only as fast as is technologically possible.”
In other words, Kiriyenko told Tehran that the sides needed to either
remove all obstacles or postpone the launch of the plant.
He also pinpointed the main obstacles: a chronic shortage of funds and
delays in the delivery of equipment, especially by other countries.
These are old problems. Tehran has long been making monthly payments by
installments, frequently transferring part of the monthly payment to next
month and later pretending that it is for the current month, leaving the
previous month’s payment in limbo.
As for deliveries of equipment from other countries, it was Iran’s
decision to order equipment from the West without bothering to obtain
guarantees of compliance with contractual obligations. And now Western
companies, fearing American sanctions, prefer to keep away from Bushehr.
Russia and Iran found a solution during the second round of talks held
from the Russian side by Atomstroyexport President Sergei Shmatko. They
agreed that parallel contracts should be signed to preclude delays in the
delivery of equipment, and also agreed to streamline the system for making
Since stable financing is the main factor, Russia “does not see major
risks of a failure to inaugurate the plant, although it is an ambitious
project that will call for considerable efforts by both sides,” Shmatko
The Bushehr project has long gone beyond the framework of bilateral
relations and pure business.
The Paris-based newspaper Le Monde explains the problems hindering the
drafting of a UN Security Council resolution on Iran by Russia’s
stubborn “refusal to approve punitive measures against Iran because they
may affect its participation in the Bushehr project.”
Citing foreign diplomats, the newspaper writes that Russian officials are
“completely intractable, and refused to heed Western recommendations on
denying entry visas to the heads of Iran’s sensitive programs.”
According to Le Monde, Moscow might agree to prohibit financial transfers
to Iranian bodies connected with nuclear and missile programs, but
“refuses to freeze these bodies’ foreign bank accounts.”
The author of the article explains Russia’s refusal by the fact that
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization “has bank accounts in Russia in
accordance with the contract for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear
power plant.” He writes: “[This is why] Russia has robbed the
resolution drafted by the Europeans of its most important elements, and
also reneged on the clauses it seemed prepared to accept in October.”
Even if sanctions against Iran were introduced within weeks, “they would
be symbolic at best,” the author concludes.
Atomstroyexport officials brush off such statements as fantasy. They say
deliveries of nuclear fuel will start in March of 2007, the nuclear power
plant will be commissioned in September and start generating electricity
in November. -0-