Despite the imposition of sanctions by Washington, Russia’s Atomic Energy Ministry (MINATOM) plans to triple the number of specialists building Iran’s first nuclear power reactor at Bushehr to over 1000. The US imposed sanctions against three Russian research institutes and is threatening further action in response to Russia’s continued involvement.

Washington has accused Russia of supplying Iran with missile and nuclear weapons technology. Moscow insists there is nothing sensitive about the help it is giving Teheran as part of the $800 million project.

Both Russia and Iran say the Bushehr plant is for purely civilian purposes. But Washington says Iran cannot be trusted with nuclear technology. It has invoked the provisions of a bill passed recently, which provides for sanctions against foreign legal entities and private persons promoting Teheran’s missile programme. US companies and organisations have been banned from aid and commercial links with Russia’s Research and Design Institute of Power Engineering (NIKIET), the Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technologies, and the Moscow Aviation Institute. Washington took similar action against seven Russian organisations last July, accusing them of supplying dual-purpose materials and equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Russian intelligence agents have never denied that several Iranian companies which used to operate in Russia were directly concerned with the missile technology programme. But their activity on the Russian territory has now been stopped.

Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Lev Ryabev says Washington has produced no proof that Russian companies are illegally cooperating with Iran in the nuclear sphere.

“A considerable amount of attention is currently paid in Russia to export control, which has been tightened in every direction,” he stressed. “I do not think that it is possible for sensitive nuclear technologies to pass our barriers.” He added that Russia was also honouring a verbal agreement with the US to restrict cooperation with Iran to the Bushehr project.