Russia, Iran agree on timeline to finish Bushehr

Former NSC head Mizrahi warns nuclear plant could also have military use.

bushehr reactor 248.88 (photo credit: )
bushehr reactor 248.88
(photo credit: )
Russia and Iran have reached agreement on a schedule for completing construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which plays a central role in the international tensions over Iran's nuclear program, an official with the plant's contractor said Thursday. The director of Russian contractor Atomstroiexport, Sergei Shmatko, said details of the timetable would be released later this month, according to Russian news agencies. Israel had no official comment on the Russian press reports of the Bushehr deal, with government officials saying Israel had no interest in getting into a row with Russia at this time over the matter. One diplomatic official said Iran posed a threat to the free world and "we regret the continuation of its nuclear program with the aid of other members of the international community." Ilan Mizrahi, who until a week ago was the head of the National Security Council, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview before the recent reports about Bushehr that Israel was not, in principle, against the activation of the Bushehr reactor under strict international control, but feared that it would be used in the future as a means of pursuing nuclear weapons. "Israel is not against Bushehr and is not saying that Bushehr cannot be activated," he said. "The fear is that Bushehr will be a platform for a different [military] type of enrichment." The United States and other critics have long protested construction of the $1 billion plant, saying it would give Iran cover for developing a nuclear weapons program. Construction at the plant has been sporadically delayed amid disputes between Iran and Russia over payment, fuel delivery and other issues. But Russia has remained opposed to a US-led push for international sanctions against Iran for allegedly seeking to develop nuclear weapons. "The difficulties with our Iranian customers have been settled," Atomstroiexport spokeswoman Irina Yesipova said. The Russian and Iranian sides "now share a common view of the timetable for construction of the plant, including the delivery of fuel," she said. Officials did not give details of the completion plans, but ITAR-Tass cited Shmatko as saying fuel would be delivered to Iran about six months before the plant launched operations, as has previously been stated. Although Russia has resisted drives to impose sanctions on Iran, it also repeatedly has urged Teheran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve concerns over the nuclear program. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underlined that position later Thursday after a meeting in Moscow with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki. Lavrov said resolving the controversy was possible "solely on the basis of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, IAEA rules and principles and, certainly, with Iran proving its right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy," according to the Interfax news agency. Lavrov spoke by phone Thursday with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about "the continuation of diplomatic efforts on resolving the Iranian nuclear issue," as well as Kosovo, the Foreign Ministry said. Shmatko raised the prospect of creating a Russian-Iranian joint venture "to ensure security" at the Bushehr plant, according to the RIA-Novosti agency. That could indicate Russian interest in ensuring that enriched uranium at the plant is not stolen or diverted. Depleted fuel rods also could be reprocessed into plutonium.