Russia to finish Iran nuclear plant but won't deliver missiles
Russia said it will soon make a long-delayed Iran nuclear power plant fully operational. The move was part of a deal within Russia to finish the plant while canceling a controversial sale of an advanced missile system to Tehran.
The controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran has been an on-again, off-again project for years as Russia, the plant's builder, has dragged its feet in an effort to allay international concerns over Iran's alleged nuclear-weapons drive.Skip to next paragraph
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But on Friday, Russia's state nuclear agency, Rosatom, announced that in one week's time it will load nuclear fuel into Bushehr's Russian-made reactor, which is the first step to making it fully operational.
"The fuel will be charged in the reactor on 21 August. From this moment, Bushehr will be considered a nuclear installation," said Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov, in a terse announcement. "This will be an irreversible step."
Why the change of tune?
Experts say the decision probably represents a compromise in a long-running dispute among Russian policymakers over what to do about Iran. And, despite appearances, the decision to finish Bushehr probably reflects a defeat for hard-liners who favor stronger military and political ties with Tehran.
In June, Russia moved briskly toward the US position by backing a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran over its failure to stop enriching uranium – a key step toward attaining nuclear weapons capability. The measures include financial controls and a tough arms embargo.
Nuclear plant, but no missiles
Russia's acceptance of the new sanctions compels it to shelve a lucrative contract to provide advanced S-300 air defense systems, roughly comparable to the US Patriot missile, under an $800-million contract that was signed between Moscow and Tehran in 2005, but repeatedly delayed by the Kremlin for apparently diplomatic reasons.
"The S-300 was the subject of a fierce struggle inside the corridors of Russian power, and a lot of people in our military-industrial complex warned that failure to deliver the weapons as agreed would ruin our competitive position in the world's arms market," says Sergei Strokan, a foreign policy columnist with the Moscow daily Kommersant newspaper.