Bushehr front 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Russia and Iran took a step Sunday toward resolving their dispute over payment for the construction of a nearly complete nuclear power plant Russia is building in Iran, the state-run Russian company leading the project said.
Russian and Iranian representatives who held negotiations in Moscow signed a protocol laying out financing plans for the remaining construction at the Bushehr plant, Atomstroiexport spokeswoman Irina Yesipova said. However, she said some issues still remained and that more talks would be held next month.
Amid Iran's defiance of international pressure to halt uranium enrichment activities, Russia earlier this year delayed Bushehr's launch, which had been set for September, saying Teheran was behind scheduled on payments. The international community fears Iran could be seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its uranium enrichment is meant only for nuclear energy purposes.
Iranian officials denied any payment delays under the US$1 billion (â‚¬740 million) contract and accused Russia of caving in to Western pressure. Moscow has cultivated close ties with Iran but has supported limited UN sanctions against Tehran recently while warding off US efforts to level harsher punishments.
Yesipova suggested the protocol marked strong progress but not a full resolution of the dispute.
"If the financing plan is successfully implemented, a portion of the questions on the financing of Iran's first atomic power station plant will be removed," she said.
Russia and Iran have had warm ties, with Russian President Vladimir Putin seeking to maintain profitable relationships with other nations and counter U.S. global clout.
But Iran has irritated Moscow by turning a cold shoulder to its efforts to resolve the persistent confrontation over its nuclear program, including an offer to enrich uranium for Iranian plants in Russia, which could provide Iran with nuclear fuel while easing concerns it might develop weapons.
Citing payment arrears, Russia said the Bushehr plant would not be launched in September and refused to ship uranium fuel for the reactor last month as earlier planned.
Russia and China joined the rest of the U.N. Security Council last month in voting to impose new sanctions - the second set of penalties in three months against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.