Last-minute dispute delays signing of nuclear deal

Russia to supply the fuel for first reactor in Iran

February 27, 2005|By David Holley | David Holley,LOS ANGELES TIMES

MOSCOW - Russia and Iran postponed signing a deal for Moscow to supply fuel for the Islamic Republic's first nuclear reactor yesterday in an apparent dispute over timing for the initial delivery, but officials for both sides said they expected the deal to be signed today.

The delay came just two days after a U.S.-Russian summit at which the Bush administration repeated its warnings that Iran could use the $1 billion Russian-built power plant as part of a nuclear weapons program. Iran denies any such intent.

The proposed fuel-supply agreement contains restrictions that would require Iran to return all spent fuel to Russia after using it. That requirement is intended to prevent Tehran from obtaining material to build nuclear bombs from the new reactor at Bushehr, in southern Iran.

U.S. officials have said they are concerned that Iran could divert low-enriched uranium from Bushehr to a weapons facility, where it could be further enriched to manufacture a bomb.

The head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, had been scheduled to sign the agreement with his Iranian counterpart, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, yesterday morning. But a snag developed, with the Iranian side apparently pressing for an early date to begin receiving the fuel and the Russian side wanting a later one.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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