<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile Azerbaijan blocks Russian nuke shipment to Iran

Azerbaijan blocks Russian nuke shipment to Iran

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

NICOSIA Iran has reported that a shipment of Russian nuclear equipment was being held in neighboring Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, an ally of the United States, has acknowledged the delay. The Azeri government said it has sought to determine whether the nuclear shipment violated United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran.

Iranian officials said their Foreign Ministry has demanded that Azeri authorities release the nuclear equipment, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the equipment, intended for the Bushehr nuclear energy reactor, was held up at the Iranian-Azeri border.

"We have asked them to deliver the shipment as soon as possible," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Husseini said.

Ali Husseini did not identify the nuclear equipment held in Azerbaijan. The spokesman said the nuclear shipment has been in Azerbaijan for three weeks.

[On Monday, CIA director Michael Hayden said North Korea built a nuclear plant in Syria that could have produced enough plutonium to assemble up to two atomic weapons per year. Hayden said full production of the plant destroyed by Israel in September 2007 would have been achieved within a year of operation.] Iran and Russia have agreed to accelerate the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr reactor, scheduled to begin full operations in October 2008.

But on April 21, Bushehr's prime contractor, Russia's state-owned Atomstroiexport, said one or two trucks carrying equipment for Bushehr were stopped in Astara, along the Azeri-Iranian border.

Atomstroiexport spokeswoman Irina Yesipova said the trucks contained what she termed heat-isolating systems. Ms. Yesipova said she did not envision additional delays to Bushehr.

Iran has also reported the construction of a second nuclear reactor. Officials said the facility was being built along the Iranian border with Iraq and would have a capacity of 360 megawatts.

"Now we need to think about the fuel for it," Iranian ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, said.

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