Moscow denies Tehran’s optimism over Bushehr start date

Publish date: September 6, 2007

NEW YORK – Officials in Moscow denied statements by Iran that a timetable for opening Iran’s Russian-constructed reactor in Bushehr had been reached after Iran’s nuclear negotiator went public saying Moscow had suggested an opening date was near.

Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was quoted by Iran’s state broadcaster as saying "good agreements" had been reached with Moscow for the inauguration of the $1 billion Bushehr light-water reactor, without giving details on when it might happen.

But Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Rosatom, denied this.

"The talks will continue until all problems that arose this spring are resolved," he told RIA Novosti.

The timing of the power station’s launch is significant as it is viewed by many Western nations as an important element in a nuclear drive which the West suspects is a front for developing atomic weapons. Iran says the programme is entirely peaceful.

In Moscow, Atomstroiexport – Rosatom’s foreign reactor construction wing which is building the plant – also said talks were far from over.

"The negotiations are still under way and we do not yet have results from that so I am not confirming this information," from Larijani, said Atomstroiexport spokeswoman Irina Yesipova, Reuters reported.

Russia has repeatedly delayed the plant which under a previous schedule was due to be started up in September 2007, citing missed payments. Energoprogress, a Russian subcontractor on the Bushehr project, said there is no chance of it coming online before autumn 2008, RIA Novosti reported.