Russia Dispatches 6th N. Fuel Consignment to Iran

A011290239.jpgTEHRAN (FNA) Russia dispatched the sixth batch of nuclear fuel on Thursday to Iran’s first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr, leaving just two more to complete the total consignment.

Russia delivered the first shipment of uranium fuel rods to Iran on December 17.

Thursday’s shipment was the third in five days. With the latest shipment, Russia has so far supplied 66 metric tons of low-enriched uranium to the plant.

The remaining two shipments will be delivered according to a previously agreed timetable by the end of February.

Under a bilateral intergovernmental contract, Russia is set to deliver a total of 82 metric tons of nuclear fuel divided into eight shipments. Deliveries are monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Meantime, Iran has announced that it would go on with its independent and self-reliant uranium enrichment program in a bid to make its own fuel so that it will have secure supplies in the future.

World powers agreed on Tuesday on the outline of a third UN Security Council resolution against Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, but diplomats said it did not contain the punitive economic measures Washington had been pushing for.

Russia and China have hardened their opposition to tough sanctions since a US intelligence report last month endorsed the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

Commenting on the new resolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday, “Our position is crystal clear. As we have stated before, from our point of view, Iran’s nuclear case is over, but they have made the same mistake again…an ineffective resolution.”

Russia says the Bushehr power plant is being built under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.

Tehran has said the Bushehr plant would start up in mid-2008.

Iran says its aim is to build nuclear power plants with 20,000 megawatts capacity to meet growing electricity demand, so it can save its hydrocarbons for export.

Tehran plans to hold tenders for the construction of 19 new nuclear reactors.

Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham earlier said Tehran expects bilateral relations to gain much from the fuel deliveries.

“Russia and Iran maintain good, developing relations. The deliveries of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant are also a good pretext for boosting cooperation between our countries,” he said.

US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran’s independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted a recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and a similar report by the IAEA head in November which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities, Russia and China increased resistance to any further punitive measures by the Security Council.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needed to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it was building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.

Iran has also pledged to clear up all remaining questions over the program by late February.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East on Wednesday, has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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