Tehran, 25 Sept. (IPS) Iran warned Russia on Monday that if it did not complete the Boushehr nuclear plant soon, it would think doing it by itself.
The warning, the first that was made public, was voiced by Iran’s Vice President Qolamreza Aqazadeh on his arrival in Moscow for talks with Rosatom's Sergei Kiriyenko during his two-day visit to the Russian capital.
"Should we face any problem in the process of completing Bushehr nuclear power plant project, we will act ourselves", the Iranian official news agency IRNA quoted Mr. Aqazadeh as having warned, as senior officials from the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation (AEOI) had disclosed that the Russian concern in charge of the construction of the 1000 megawatts project have failed to set a fixed date for the delivery of the plant as well for its fuel”.
"Should we face any problem in the process of completing Bushehr nuclear power plant project, we will act ourselves"
“In this trip we are going to discuss ways to remove existing obstacles by quickly completing the Boushehr atomic plant and also we are going to agree the time of inauguration and sending the fuel”, Mohammad Sa’idi, deputy head of the AEOI told Iranian pro-government news agencies .
Hoping that obstacles that have caused the project being delayed be removed and a “reasonable” date would be fixed for the plant producing electricity; Mr. Saidi said there are no definite conclusions that the unit would start working on November 2007 and its fuel being shipped to Iran on March that year.
Aqazadeh, who is the Head of the AEOI and Kiriyenko are expected to sign a final deal solving the differences. Iranians' contribution to the project will expedite its implementation”, he suggested, proposing to the Russians to give a share to Iranians in the completion of the project.
“Although Russia at the time of Alexander Rumyantsev (Kiriyenko’s predecessor) gave Iran a written commitment on when to send the fuel, so far it has not materialized”, Sa’idi added before leaving for Moscow.
Iran signed up Russian nuclear industry construction firm Atomstroiexport in 1995 for a contract worth some 600 million dollars, but as the construction was marred with delays, the cost climbed to near one billion US Dollars.
Iran insists that the launch date for the reactor has been delayed several times. "The fuel should have been delivered to Iran but Moscow did not fulfill its commitment", he added.
Asked about remarks by Russian officials on completion and inauguration of the power plant in 2007 and supplying fuel six months before its completion, he said, "We have no new agreement on the date of completion and inauguration of the power plant and date of fuel supply".
However, Kiriyenko had earlier stated that according to the schedule in force the commissioning of the Boushehr power plant is to take place in September 2007 and its connection to the country's power network -- in November.
"The construction of the Boushehr nuclear power plant has nothing to do with Iran's nuclear program, which is now under discussion", he stressed, referring to the Iranian controversial nuclear activities under discussion at the United Nations Security Council.
"There are no risks of uranium being enriched at this station and of nuclear materials being used for any other purposes but peaceful," Kiriyenko stated.
Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russia’s atomic agency, said last week the plant is set to start generating energy in November 2007. Russia could start delivering nuclear fuel to Iran by next March -- six months ahead of the scheduled completion of the project which Russia began building in 1998”, Novikov added.
"I believe the current contractor lacks the necessary technical capabilities", Aghazadeh was quoted by students news agency ISNA as saying shortly before leaving for Moscow.
"It was clear from the beginning that it (the contractor) was incapable and even the Russian government refused to invest in the bankrupted company, but we had to sign with the Russian contractor because we had no other alternative," he said, adding that construction could be completed in six months.
The Moscow talks come as Washington, which accuses Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon, is urging the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Teheran. Iran insists it only wants to produce nuclear energy.
Moscow is broadly resistant to the idea of imposing sanctions against Iran.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, in turn, that there were no grounds for any sanctions against Iran and for “any hurry-scurry”.
It was clear from the beginning that he contractor was incapable and even the Russian government refused to invest in the bankrupted company.
"Russia had never fixed any artificial time limits for the settlement of conflicts. The main point is that our goal is to guarantee the immunity of the non-proliferation regime", the minister noted.
"Russia is not sitting on its hands and is not waiting for the outcome of EU High Representative Javier Solana's talks on Iran, but is actively working with the Iranian colleagues to ensure the most favorable results of such contacts", Lavrov stressed, referring to the forthcoming talks between Mr. Solana and Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Mr. Ali Larijani.
Under pressures from its main European partners, mostly France and Germany, but also England, the United States has agreed to wait for the conclusion of Larijani-Solana meeting.
However, earlier this month a high-ranking Russian source said Moscow would stop building the plant if Iran expelled UN inspectors; step Iranian parliamentarians have threatened to take if the atomic standoff with the West escalates.
[Iran's Foreign Affairs Minister said Monday that talks between top Iranian and European negotiators on his country's disputed nuclear program are "on track" and he believes a negotiated solution to the standoff is possible.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told The Associated Press that he expects European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani to hold their third meeting "very soon," probably in Europe, though he didn't have an exact date or location].
Pointing to the national acute energy shortage in the coming years, Aqazadeh said that under a Majles (Iranian parliament) approval for generation of 20,0000 megawatts of nuclear energy, necessary investment will be made for the purpose in coming years.
The Energy Ministry has conducted extensive research on energy generation whose outcome would be revealed in a month, he added.
"In view of the oil price hike, energy generation would not be economical except by establishing nuclear power plants -- as the Energy Ministry has pointed out", said Aqazadeh.
Experts, Iranians and foreigners alike, do not understand why Iran is insisting on developing nuclear plants for electricity and not natural gas, as Iran has the world’s largest gas fields second to Russia.
“If the Iranians are right that they need more electricity plants, which is right, why not building units using natural gas, which is much cheaper, safer and easier to build”, one Iranian economist pointed out.
According to Aqazadeh, quoted by IRNA, Iran's strong determination in the development of nuclear power plants is an indication of presence of lucrative market for it.
In view of the oil price hike, energy generation would not be economical except by establishing nuclear power plants.
“The Americans wants to stop other countries enriching uranium and to give them necessary fuel for their atomic plants instead, the nuclear fuel guarantee should be replaced by article four of the NPT. The Europeans wants to divide world’s nuclear market between themselves while the Russians needs investments for modernizing their nuclear industries, without transferring the nuclear know how to others”, Mr. Aqazadeh observed, adding that Iran, with its ambitious nuclear-powered energy programmes, constitutes a “very big and attractive market”.
He said the states have come to realize that cooperation with Iran will be more beneficial for them.
Under the former Monarchy regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Iran had under construction four nuclear powered electricity stations, two of them built by the Germans and two others by the French.
The most advanced of them at the time of the Islamic Revolution was that one under construction in the Persian Gulf port of Boushehr by the German firm Siemens.
However, the new clerical rulers stopped all the projects at once. But realizing their mistake, the ruling Ayatollahs tried to re-engage negotiations, which the constructors refused, mostly under American pressures.
That was how the Russians entered the scene, taking over what was left from the Germans, badly damaged by Iraqi bombardments.
Critics say that the $1 billion Boushehr project and Russia's hopes of taking part in tenders for several more similar power plants, has been a major incentive for Moscow to support Tehran.
"Relations between Russia and Iran are very important for us", Aghazadeh told Kiriyenko at the start of their meeting in Moscow, according to the British news agency Reuters.
"We will focus on the completion of the Bushehr plant and also on cooperation in the nuclear power sector," he added.
Asked whether there is any row among the 5+1 coalition, Aqazadeh said, "No; but I think the countries have become more wise and the main reason for the problem had been the information that they had obtained through the International Atomic Energy Agency".
“For now, he added, Tehran and Group of 5+1 are debating confidence-building measures and some of the countries are casting more realistic look at Iran because today, the country is among the world's nuclear states”. ENDS IRAN RUSSIA BOUSHEHR 25906