MOSCOW ø Russia has acknowledged the failure to resolve a dispute
that has delayed completion of the Bushehr nuclear reactor for Iran.
Russian officials said the disagreement has resulted in the cancellation
of a meeting of the nuclear chiefs of Moscow and Teheran scheduled for this
Russian delegation, led by Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, has
delayed its visit to Teheran by at least two weeks.
Rumyantsev said the dispute regards Iran's refusal to return spent
nuclear fuel for the Bushehr plant to Moscow. Iran insists that Russia bear
the costs of securing the spent nuclear fuel as well as its transfer from
Bushehr to Moscow.
The minister said another disagreement concerns the price of the Bushehr
project, reported at $1 billion. The project is said to have overrun its
original price by 25 percent.
"The disagreement is over price," Rumyantsev said.
Rumyantsev said he hoped negotiations with Iran would be completed
within two weeks. Over the last 18 months, the minister has repeatedly
asserted that delays and disagreements regarding Bushehr were being
But the Russian minister acknowledged to significant delays in the
project. He said Moscow plans to deliver fuel to Bushehr by mid-2005. This
would be followed by the operation of the reactor in 2006.
As late as 2003, Rumyantsev asserted that Bushehr
would begin operations by the end of 2004.
The United States has pressed Moscow not to complete Bushehr without an
Iranian agreement to return the spent nuclear fuel. In December 2003, Iran
signed the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,
which calls for rapid and intrusive inspections of suspected nuclear
In a related development, Iran has acknowledged that it concealed
blueprints for an advanced centrifuge from the International Atomic Energy
Agency. U.S. officials said the concealment of the design of the so-called
Pak-2 centrifuge violated an Iranian pledge in October 2003 to fully declare
its nuclear activities and temporarily suspend uranium enrichment.