Russia to continue helping Iran build nuclear plants

U.S. objections rejected with OK of agreement


MOSCOW - The Russian government, brushing aside the Bush administration's concerns, indicated yesterday that it planned to continue building new nuclear reactors in Iran like one that American officials have repeatedly warned could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Russia's assistance in building a nuclear plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr, near the Persian Gulf, has been a nagging irritant in relations with the United States for years. It produced the sourest note in otherwise friendly meetings between Presidents Bush and Vladimir V. Putin here in May.

While administration officials have pressed Russia to break its contract to complete a 1,000-megawatt reactor at Bushehr, a document approved this week by Prime Minister Mikhail M. Kasyanov and announced yesterday outlined plans to build three more reactors at the site.

The document also indicated that Russia would offer to build two more reactors at a new nuclear power station at Akhvaz, a city about 60 miles from Iran's border with Iraq.

That appeared to contradict remarks this month by Russia's atomic energy minister, Alexander Y. Rumyantsev, who said that the country's cooperation with Iran in developing its nuclear-power industry would end with the project at Bushehr.

Russia, like Iran, has repeatedly dismissed American concerns about the project, insisting that it was a civilian effort to develop new energy sources. But the Bush administration fears that the Iranians will use Russian equipment and expertise to produce nuclear weapons.

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