Paris-Tehran-Moscow, 15 March. (IPS) The slap the Russians gave the Iranian clerical-led government on Tuesday was so strong that 24 hours after it had been clapped on their face, no one had dared to react.
“The Iranians have abused of their relations with Russia. They have harmed our image and standing in international community”, an unidentified Russia official told the country’s three main news service that “Iran's defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency has caused Russia to suffer losses in relation to its foreign policy and image, but they insist on their line".
Iran with a nuclear bomb or a potential for its creation is impermissible for us.
"Iran with a nuclear bomb or a potential for its creation is impermissible for us", the anonymous official was quoted by Itar-Tass as having said, adding: "We will not play with them in anti-American games. . . . The Iranians are abusing our constructive attitude and have done nothing to help us convince our colleagues of Tehran's consistency".
"It is a serious public warning to Iran's leadership", Andrei Kortunov, president of the New Eurasia Foundation, a Moscow think-tank, said, adding: "This is a serious sign that Iran may eventually find itself in international isolation"
“The statement clearly was an organized leak designed to be an unofficial official reprimand to Iran”, he observed.
The authorities have ordered the media to ignore the remarks, the harshest ever made by the Russians.
In fact, while all Iranian officials related to the country’s nuclear issue “deplored” that the plant would not be finished on time, none of them have been asked about the warnings.
“The equation is simple: If Iran wants it’s atomic plant finished, it must obey by the US Security Council resolution, or it must say goodbye to the project but also forget having another one”, another Iranian analyst pointed out, adding:
“In fact, Moscow is doing softly what the Americans have not been able to do with their harsh rhetoric and threats: prevent Iran from acquiring the know-how for making a nuclear bomb”.
The latest row between Tehran and Moscow started about a week ago when officials at the AtomStroiExport, the Russian firm that is building Iran’s first nuclear power reactor in the city-port of Boushehr on the Persian Gulf disclosed that as a result of delays in payments by Iran, they could not keep the scheduled time frame for finishing the work.
According to an agreement reached last year between Iran and Russia, AtomStroiExport was to transfer to the plant the necessary fuel by the end of March 2007 and put the plant on stream six months latter, meaning by September 2007.
For its part, Tehran had undertaken to pay the Russian company 25 million US Dollars per month until the end of the project.
"It will be impossible to launch the reactor in September, and there can be no talk about supplying fuel this month", AtomStroiExport said in a statement, complaining that since January 2007, the contractor has not received “one kopeck” from Iran.
“It seems that the Iranians are not aware of real figures and probably, they are no more interested in the plant”, Serguei Krienko, the Head of the Russian Atomic energy Agency told Russian media on Wednesday.
Tehran flatly rejected the claim. Mohammad Sa’idi, the Deputy to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation several time repeated that there has been no delay and counter-charged Russia claims, saying they don’t have proper data.
“Not only we have made all payments on time, but Iran has even made cash advances to the Russian contractor to the amount of 12.7 million US dollars, to help it overcome its cash flow difficulties”, an official statement by the AEOI stated on Tuesday.
But details of payments offered by Mr. Sa’idi prove that the Russian are –partly – right.
In fact, Mr. Sa’idi told the official news agency IRNA on Wednesday that from 10 October 2006 to 12 December 2006, Iran had paid 58 million US Dollars. From First of January 2007 to the end of the month 16.900 millions; while another payment of 18.200 million for February and March 2007 are in process.
According to the agreement, Iran has to pay 25 millions per month. This means that between October 2006 to 10 March 2007, Iran had to pay the Russian contractor 125 million dollars, while it has paid only 74.900, the balance being 50 millions, and not the 75 millions the Russians claims.
Taking advantage of the row to prove that ran is right in trying to master full nuclear energy cycle and enrich uranium, Mr. Ali Larijani, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator commented: "The situation shows there is no guarantee in the world for getting fuel. Iran's demand to provide and produce its fuel stems from this".
Earlier, the official spokesman for Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry had hoped that the Russians won't “politicize" the delivery of the nuclear fuel and complete the plant on time.
"This should be done within the next two weeks. We expect the Russians to fulfill their commitments", he said, after Mr. Qolamreza Aqazadeh, the Head of AEOI had, for its part, acknowledged that the issue has “become politicised”.
The equation is simple: If Iran wants it’s atomic plant finished, it must obey by the US Security Council resolution.
“As the Boushehr nuclear power plant is becoming politicised and that a new resolution is being prepared at the (UN’s) Security council, we are aware of these situations and are ready to face them, although we hope tha Tussians would respect their engagements”.
Signed on 1995, the Iran-Russia agreement for the construction of the 1000 megawatts power station, with an estimated cost of 600 millions US Dollars is becoming a “white elephant” for the Iranians, who, after several delays and payments that has exceeded one billion US dollars, are not sure it would ever be finished.
Aqazadeh revealed that since the first contract 12 years ago, the company has changed 8 directors, did not had proper cash not technical capabilities and competences for the work. “Nevertheless, we remain committed to help ASE as much as we can in order to keep its engagements”, he added.
According to some authoritative Russian sources, it is resident Vladimir Putin himself that has urged the Russian constructor not to finish the plant until Iran yields to demands by the Security Council and the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic energy Agency to stop its nuclear activities, and above all enriching uranium.
Ivan Safranchuk, director of the Moscow office of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, said the toughening of Moscow's attitude toward Iran has also been prompted by concern to avoid further damage to Russian-US relations, which have deteriorated over the past few years.
"Russia can't afford to spoil relations with the United States any more deeply, and doesn't intend to continue to irritate Washington over Iran", he said, adding that
Russia "is taking advantage of the technical problems with Iran to send a political message".
"Iran is on the verge of severing relations with the IAEA, and Russia is clearly warning against such a dangerous step", Safranchuk said. "It is clear that no one -- even Russia -- will supply nuclear fuel to Iran once it breaks relations with the IAEA",
“We shall continue our way and they (the 5+1) can exchange papers between them”, President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad said on Wednesday, seemingly in a response to the Russian warnings.
In fact, Russian officials told Iranian envoy Ali Hosseinitash, a deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, that Tehran must abide to fulfill the demands of corresponding resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency Board and also urged Tehran to "take the necessary constructive steps that would allow an immediate start to the negotiation process".
In Tehran meanwhile, some officials and the press continued angry statements against Kremlin, but also Iranian authorities for having made themselves “prisoners” of the Russians.
More than 300 political activists, journalists, commentators, political analysts and dissidents, in an unprecedented petition, urged the “highest authorities” to accept IAEA’s Chief proposals for a “time off” based on “mutual suspension”.
“In our view, Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei’s proposal for mutual suspensions of UN Security council’s Resolution against Iran and the suspension of enriching uranium by Iran is a wise and far reaching action to prevent resolution and a possible war in the one hand and a good way for a win-win policy, taking the pretext from warmongers”, the signatories said, referring to Mr. ElBaradei proposal made last month at the World Economic Forum of Davos, Switzerland.
Iran rejected the proposal for a “time off” by both Iran and the Security Council, a suggestion that had been backed by Moscow as well as the European Troika of France, England and Germany.
Kazem Jalali, an Iranian lawmaker, sharply criticized delays in the project and said they may damage Iranian-Russian relations.
"Any procrastination and delay in construction and delivery of the Boushehr power plant can reverse the balance in favor of those not calling for ties with Russia", Jalali said, quoted by the official Iranian news agency IRNA, adding that some Iranian leaders believe that Russia is not a trusted partner.
What worries the Iranians is that the contractor is calling back some of the 2000 to 2.500 Russian workers, technicians and experts who are working on the site.
“We have no other choice but to satisfy the Russians, for the Boushehr project has been made such a big event by incompetent officialdom that refused to hear experts and politicians warning them against putting all their eggs in one basket or others who urged them to accept Europeans proposals” a former negotiator noted, talking on the phone with IPS on condition of anonymity, adding:
“Even if finished up to 99 per cent, the plant is considered incomplete and now, it is certain that the Russians would not give Iran that one percent until we bow to UN’s resolution”.
Nevertheless, as the 5=+1 circulated Thursday their new draft resolution to the Security Council members, Tehran reconfirmed the “irreversibility” of its nuclear stand, reminding that it is a decision made by the regime’s higher authority.
“We know that this (Iranian resolve to become nuclear power) has a price. But we have made ourselves ready for that. The only thing is to try to make the price lower through diplomatic means”, Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati, the former Foreign Affairs minister who serves as Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i’s special advisor for International Affairs told IRNA on Wednesday. ENDS BOUSHEHR DELAYED 15307