Source AP ©

Russian fuel for Bushehr reactor received, Iran says

Iran confirmed that the first shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia for the Bushehr reactor was received on Monday, according to official IRNA news agency.

"The first nuclear fuel shipment for the Bushehr atomic power plant arrived in Iran Monday," Iranian Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said.

Russia that is helping constructing the nuclear plant announced earlier Monday that the first shipment of nuclear fuel was on its way to Iran.

Some critics suspect Iran of using the plants to develop nuclear arms. But Tehran insists its purposes are peaceful.

The construction has been delayed frequently and some observers thought that Russia was dissatisfied with international pressure over Iran on its nuclear plans. But Moscow’s officials said the problem was will payments.

Last week Russia announced that all disputes were resolved and the construction would be continued. It was announced that fuel deliveries would begin about a half year before Bushehr was expected to go into service.

"The transfer of nuclear fuel will continue and all the (required) fuel will be shipped to Iran in accordance with the timetable," IRNA quoted Aghazadeh, who is also head of Iran's nuclear program, as saying.

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry insisted that all the fuel will be under the safeguards of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.

"All fuel that will be delivered will be under the control and guarantees of the International Atomic Energy Agency for the whole time it stays on Iranian territory," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday. "Moreover, the Iranian side gave additional written guarantees that the fuel will be used only for the Bushehr nuclear power plant."

Aghazadeh said the Bushehr plant was 95 percent complete and would begin operations "next year." He indicated the reactor needed 80 tons of nuclear fuel during the initial phase of operation, but did not provide further details.

In a rare criticism of Russia in March, Iran complained that the inauguration of Bushehr was eight years behind schedule. According to Iranian officials, the plant had been expected to come on stream in July 1999.

Although Russia has resisted the U.S.-led drive to impose harsher sanctions on Iran, it has also repeatedly urged Tehran to cooperate with the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA to resolve concerns over the nuclear program.

The U.S. has been pushing the U.N. Security Council to pass a third round of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb.

The American effort became more difficult recently with the release of a new U.S. intelligence report that concluded Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003 and had not resumed it.

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