Iran Sees Talks Ending Russian N. Plant Row

Tehran said it could negotiate a solution to its dispute with Russia about building Iran first nuclear power plant, and Moscow promised to keep the project alive. Iranian Government Spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham also said the Foreign Ministry was seeking a US visa so that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could address the UN Security Council on Tehran’s nuclear plans but that the trip had not been finalized.

Iran is embroiled in a row over its nuclear program, which the West says conceals a plan to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies vehemently. Tehran insists that it wants only to generate electricity.

Russia’s work on the 1,000 MW nuclear plant at Bushehr on the Gulf has caused friction with the United States. The Russian firm building the plant said on Monday the September launch date would be missed because of payment delays, which Iran denies.

“We are not pessimistic and we believe with negotiations this issue can be solved. It is better that this project carries on within the framework of the contract,” Elham told a weekly news conference.

The Russian firm, Atomstroiexport, also said nuclear fuel would not be delivered as planned this month because of the row.

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Russia’s failure to send the fuel on time showed there were no “proper guarantees” for supplies.

Tehran has said it needs to make its own fuel, despite Western opposition, to ensure supplies.

An Iranian nuclear official complained about repeated Bushehr project delays and reaffirmed Iran’s position that payments were up to date.

“Construction works (at Bushehr) are not being interrupted,” said Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Russia’s state atomic agency Rosatom. “But it’s another issue that construction has been substantially slowed down by a lack of funds.”

“Under the circumstances, we will do whatever can still be done within the project’s framework, given a lack of funds.”

Russia has defied Western concerns by supplying arms to Iran, helping build the Bushehr plant and watering down sanctions against Tehran at the United Nations.

The five permanent Security Council members, the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia, plus Germany are discussing new sanctions on Iran for missing a February 21 deadline to suspend uranium enrichment.

On December 23, the council imposed trade sanctions on sensitive nuclear materials and technology and froze assets of key Iranian individuals, groups and businesses.

“What I hope happens is that they won’t take illogical and unwise decisions and actions that make the situation more complicated,” Elham said.

He said fresh pressure “would not go without a response” but did not elaborate. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has threatened US regional interests if attacked.

Washington insists it wants a diplomatic solution to the standoff but has not ruled out military action if that fails.

Israeli Deputy Premier Shimon Peres said on Tuesday a peaceful solution must be found.

Iranian officials have said Ahmadinejad wants to address the Security Council on Iran’s plans but the State Department said it was unsure what purpose that would serve.

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