Russia Backs Iran’s Right To Nuclear Energy

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Russia on Wednesday opposed an EU draft resolution that seeks to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council and warned against escalating the standoff with Tehran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a speech in San Francisco: ‘While Iran is cooperating with the IAEA, while it is not enriching uranium and observing a moratorium, while IAEA inspectors are working in the country, it would be counter-productive to report this question to the UN Security Council.

‘It will lead to an unnecessary politicising of the situation. Iran is not violating its obligations and its actions do not threaten the non-proliferation regime.’

The Russian and Chinese foreign ministers, at a meeting in New York attended by the Indian foreign minister, agreed that Iran’s nuclear programme could be dealt with within the framework of the IAEA.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: ‘The ministers agreed that the situation surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme is not irreversible, and there remains every possibility the problem can be resolved within the IAEA framework.’

The European Union produced a draft resolution at the meeting of UN nuclear inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Wednesday, that recommends that the UN Security Council urge Iran to allow the IAEA to inspect any sites it wants to visit, whether or not Iran is legally bound to do so.

It also wants the council to tell Iran to resume both talks with the EU and a freeze of sensitive nuclear work that Tehran ended last month.

Russia is building a $1 billion nuclear reactor for Iran and sees it as a key ally in the Middle East.

But it is not the only country opposed to the EU draft, Brazil and South Africa have expressed opposition.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Larijani, had reacted angrily, warning that Tehran might pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and resume uranium enrichment if reported to the Security Council.

He said: ‘If you want to use the language of force, Iran has no choice but – in order to safeguard its technological achievements – to leave the framework of the NPT, the framework of the Protocol’s regulations and to resume enrichment.’

He added that there is no legal and judicial foundation for referral of Iran’s nuclear case to the UN Security Council.

He stressed that ‘in case of referral of Iran’s case to the UN Security Council, Tehran would undoubtedly quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its safeguards and would not hesitate launching the enrichment project.

However, Vice President and head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said on the sidelines of the IAEA meeting that Iran was not considering withdrawing from the treaty.

He assured: ‘Leaving the NPT is not on the agenda.’

But Aghazadeh confirmed that Iran had told non-aligned board members, Russia and China that it might restart its uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz and would end short-notice inspections under the IAEA’s Additional Protocol if reported.

On Tuesday,  the head of Russian nuclear power operator Rosatom, Aleksandr Rumyantsev, reiterated Russia’s support for Iran’s nuclear programme.

He told Russian news agency ITAR-TASS that he hoped Iran would not be hauled before the UN Security Council over suspicions regarding its nuclear intentions, the agency reported.

‘Russia’s position is that there are no grounds for the Iranian nuclear issue to be viewed with particular concern or for it to be referred upwards to the UN Security Council,’ he said.

He declined to predict the line to be taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying that it ‘is thoroughly monitoring all of Iran’s nuclear activities and is fully accomplishing its mission’.

Rumyantsev pointed out that Iran is a signatory to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and has had to give the IAEA additional guarantees of its good intent.

‘Iran is entitled to develop civilian nuclear energy,’ he said.

‘Nonetheless, there are some issues that need to be elucidated via the IAEA.’

The Bushehr nuclear power plant that Russia is building in Iran will enter service next year.

‘We will definitely be able to physically start up Bushehr’s first generating set next year,’ Rumyantsev told ITAR-TASS.

‘Preparatory work is in hand to deliver the fuel,’ he said, ‘paperwork is being done and IAEA inspectors are being invited.’

They will visit both Bushehr and Novosibirsk, from which fuel will be sent.

As for Iran’s future nuclear ambitions, the ‘ideal option’ would be for Russia to work with the UK, Germany and France in a joint bid to supply more generating sets.

The subject has been broached via the IAEA, Rumyantsev said.

Another reactor that the Russians are building, at Tianwan in China, will start up its first generating set in October, with the second to follow early next year. Rumyantsev hoped that the Chinese would call a tender straight afterwards for two more generating sets, adding that Russia is already getting the paperwork together for a bid.

He also predicted that the Chinese would be building their own nuclear power stations within five to seven years.

Rosatom is in the meantime bidding for a contract in Hungary, to extend the service life of the Paks nuclear power station.

The tender opens next year, for the work to begin in 2007.

‘We have huge experience,’ Rumyantsev said. ‘We have already extended the service lives of the Voronezh and Kursk stations and we know how to replace equipment.’

l The Russian Emergencies Ministry has sent another batch of humanitarian aid to Iraq, Russian Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday, 20 September, quoting the director of the ministry’s international cooperation department, Yuriy Brazhnikov.

In a joint Russian-German humanitarian operation, on 13-19 September 6.5m packs of paracetamol worth 1.2m euros were delivered to the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, he said.

Brazhnikov added that although the aid had been received by the Kurdish regional health ministry, it was intended for the whole of Iraq.

‘Iraq’s demand for humanitarian aid is great and Russia is ready to continue rendering humanitarian aid to Iraq, under the UN auspices in particular,’ the agency quoted Brazhnikov as saying.

At the same time he added that ‘the current situation in Iraq in terms of security does not contribute to humanitarian operations’.

Speaking about the delivery of the humanitarian cargo to northern Iraq, Brazhnikov said that the Kurdistan authorities had successfully protected the cargo, taken care of unloading the planes and distributing the humanitarian aid.

‘The Kurds are our reliable partner in humanitarian operations in Iraq,’ he said.