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Russia: sanctions unlikely to delay Iran nuclear power plant

Russia may back tougher, US-sponsored Iran sanctions, but it still expects to finish building the Bushehr nuclear power plant and selling Iran advanced weapons systems.

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"We expect the nuclear power plant will be launched by August if everything goes according to plan," Mr. Kiriyenko said. "The resolution on Iran being drawn up [in the Security Council] will not affect these plans."

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Iran-Russia relations 'growing worse'

But some Russian experts argue that such investments are now largely symbolic, meant to emphasize Moscow's "independent position" rather than reflecting any large, ongoing Russian economic interests in Iran.

"Our relations with Iran have been growing worse since the presidential elections in Iran last year," says Vladimir Yevseyev, an expert with the Center for International Security in Moscow. "Our trade turnover with Iran is low, around $3 billion annually." He adds that Russian energy companies Lukoil and Gazprom have largely departed from Iran, despite big hopes for cooperation in previous years.

The same is true of nuclear cooperation, where former talk of building up to eight Russian nuclear power plants in Iran has been scaled back to just completing Bushehr, says Alexei Malashenko, a Russia expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow.

"They've announced intentions to finish Bushehr at last, probably because doing so will free Russia's hands [with respect to Iran]," he says. "This has been a problem for us for too long."

Russia puts faith in Obama

Mr. Malashenko says Medvedev's new West-centered foreign policy approach is based on big hopes that President Barack Obama means what he says about his policies of greater engagement with Russia and not launching a military strike against Iran's nuclear program.

"At the moment in Moscow they are shaping policies to fit Obama's line, and everyone is very sure that [tougher sanctions against Iran] are not leading to war," he says. "Russian leaders are absolutely certain that Obama has ruled out military action against Iran."

Experts say that Russia also showed its chops as an international team player by participating in the deal brokered this week by Turkey and Brazil to exchange low-enriched Iranian uranium for fuel rods to be used in a US-built medical reactor in Tehran.

"This issue was probably discussed during Medvedev's visit to Turkey last week, and the Brazilian president's visit to Moscow earlier this week," says Mr. Yevseyev. "It is Russia that will likely carry out the enrichment of uranium to be supplied to Iran under that deal."

IN PICTURES: Nuclear power around the world

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