Russia delays Iran nuclear plant in early ’08

Russia on Thursday said it had delayed the start-up of Iran’s first nuclear power station to early 2008 because Tehran had fallen behind with payments for the plant, Itar-Tass news agency reported. A Russian sub-contractor said on Wednesday the Bushehr plant had no chance of being launched before autumn 2008. The timing of the plant’s start-up is significant as it is viewed by Israel and the United States as an important element in a nuclear drive which they suspect is a front for developing nuclear weapons. Iran says the programme is entirely peaceful. Russia has repeatedly delayed the plant which under the latest schedule was due to be started up in September 2007. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak was quoted by Tass as saying in Baku that Tehran was still behind in payments for the plant and that the delay was not political. “The time frame for starting up the atomic station, planned for late this year, will be moved to 2008,” Kislyak was quoted as saying in Baku. “Russia is fully determined to take Bushehr to its logical conclusion and launch the atomic power station,” he was quoted as saying. Russia has used the Bushehr nuclear plant as a lever in relations with Tehran which chilled this year after a row over missed payments for building the plant in southwest Iran.

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