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Iran says may not give Russia new nuclear deals

TEHRAN, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Tehran has threatened to withhold further nuclear contracts from Russia, accusing it of failing to fulfil commitments on building an atomic power plant in Iran, an Iranian newspaper reported on Monday.

``As long as the Russians do not fulfil their initial commitment to complete the Bushehr plant, no new contract will be signed with them,'' the English-language Iran Daily quoted Mehdi Safari, Iran's ambassador to Moscow, as saying.

``Delays have occurred in this project, but we hope that the Russians will carry out their responsibilities as planned,'' it quoted Safari as telling a Russian television station last week.

Tehran and Moscow have blamed each other for delays in the $800 million deal, signed in 1995, to complete the 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor in the Gulf port of Bushehr. The plant was initially due for completion by 2002, but Russian officials have said the first unit would be finished by May 2003.

``No significant progress has been made in the nuclear project because of some differences,'' said Iran Daily, published by the official news agency IRNA. It did not elaborate.

Israel and the United States have pressured Russia to abandon the project, saying Iran could use the technology to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran and Moscow insist their nuclear cooperation is of a strictly civilian nature.

Washington has imposed sanctions on several Russian scientific institutes and companies which it accused of helping Tehran acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Safari said the Russians had asked to be given the contract to complete the plant's other phases. Iran has reportedly asked Russia to study building three more nuclear reactors in Bushehr.

``Russia's reasoning is that if they are assigned the next phase in advance, they can finish the project in time,'' he said, adding that the issue was to be resolved during a visit to Moscow by the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Gholamreza Aghazadeh.


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