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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Russia begins work on Iranian reactor
President Khatami and President Putin
The US is unnerved by Iran's friendliness with Russia
Russian technicians have begun assembling heavy equipment due to form part of the first reactor at a nuclear power plant in Iran.

Russia is going ahead with the $800m project - at the port of Bushehr - despite strong objections from the United States, which says it is concerned that Iran intends to develop weapons-grade plutonium there.

Map of Iran showing Tehran and Bushehr
The plant is scheduled to begin operating in June 2004 with the loading of nuclear fuel into the reactor set for December 2003, Russia's atomic energy ministry said.

That represents a delay from the September 2003 start date originally promised by the Russian firm who took on the project which was started by a German firm in 1972 but abandoned after the Iranian revolution in 1979.

The main shell of the water-cooled nuclear reactor, built in St Petersburg, was delivered to Iran last November.

Viktor Kozlov, director general of Atomstroyexport which is building the reactor, said there were now 600 Russian experts in Iran, and the number would increase to about 2,000 by the end of the year.

"They will be joined by their families and will live in a special village that has been set up for them near the site of the plant," he said.

Warming ties

The nuclear project has been the result of warming ties between the two countries which have also seen Iranian President Mohammed Khatami travel to Moscow for friendly talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The relationship has unnerved the US which had said the building of the Bushehr reactor was an issue of "great concern".

US President George W Bush has named Iran, alongside Iraq and North Korea, as part of an "axis of evil" which he claims is seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Russian officials, however, have insisted that its nuclear co-operation programme with Iran is transparent, legitimate and in line with Russia's commitments under the non-proliferation treaty.

See also:

16 Aug 02 | Middle East
02 Aug 02 | Middle East
01 Aug 02 | Middle East
12 Mar 01 | Middle East
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