Russian official: Iran stalling reactor payments

Uranium fuel deliveries for a Russian-built nuclear reactor in Iran and its launch could be delayed because of the Iranian government dragging its feet on payments, officials said Monday. Iran broke the schedule of payments this year under a US$1 billion (€770 million) deal to build the Bushehr nuclear plant, said a government official, who asked not be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He said the Iranians explained the delay in payments by technical reasons. Asked about the delay in payments, Russia's Federal Nuclear Power Agency spokesman Sergei Novikov said it could derail the launch schedule. Last year, Russia agreed to ship fuel to the Bushehr nuclear plant in southern Iran by March 2007 and launch the facility in September, with electricity generation to start by November. "The launch schedule definitely could be affected," Novikov told The Associated Press. In December, Russia supported a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing limited sanctions against Iran over Iran's refusal to stop uranium enrichment. The United States and its European allies have disputed Iran's nuclear program _ which Tehran says is only for producing fuel and not for making weapons.