Tehran and Moscow fall out over Bushehr

30 September 1999

Tehran has threatened to withhold further nuclear contracts from Russia, accusing the Russians of failing to fulfil commitments on building the Bushehr atomic power plant, an Iranian newspaper reported on 6 September.

“As long as the Russians do not fulfil their initial commitment to complete the Bushehr plant, no new contract will be signed with them,” the English language Iran Daily quoted Mehdi Safari, Iran's ambassador to Moscow, as saying. “Delays have occurred in this project, but we hope that the Russians will carry out their responsibilities as planned.” Tehran and Moscow have blamed each other for delays in the $800 million deal, signed in 1995, to complete the 1000-MW nuclear reactor in the Gulf port of Bushehr. The plant was initially due for completion by 2002, but Russian officials have said the first unit would be finished by May 2003.

“No significant progress has been made in the nuclear project because of some differences,” said Iran Daily, published by the official Irna news agency. It did not elaborate.

Israel and the US have pressured Russia to abandon the project, saying Iran could use the technology to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran and Moscow insist that their nuclear cooperation is of a strictly civilian nature. Safari said the Russians have asked to be given the contract to complete the plant’s other phases. Iran has reportedly asked Russia to consider building three more nuclear reactors in Bushehr.

“Russia’s reasoning is that if they are assigned the next phase in advance, they can finish the project on time,” said Safari.

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