Iran Blames Russia for Holdup

An Iranian official said Russia was responsible for timely delivery of equipment stopped by Azerbaijan when in transit to Iran's first nuclear power plant, a news agency said Wednesday.

Russian officials said Monday that Azeri customs and border officials had halted a cargo of Russian heat insulators for Iran's Bushehr plant, which has faced years of delays.

"The issue of stopping a shipment of equipment for Bushehr power plant on the way to Iran is a matter for the Russian contractor," the Iranian news agency ISNA quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying.

The official added that it was up to the contractor to ensure the "transfer of equipment in the specified timetable."

The cargo was detained at Astara, on the border between Azerbaijan and Iran, on March 29, the Russian officials said.

A top Azeri customs official said release of the equipment, valued at around $171,000, required special government permission. Officials have said they needed assurance the equipment did not violate United Nations sanctions against Iran.

Atomstroiexport, the Russian state company building the Busher plant, accused Azerbaijan on Tuesday of intentionally obstructing the shipment.

Atomstroiexport spokeswoman Irina Yesipova said the company was baffled by the holdup. "Our cargo has been thoroughly inspected and does not fall under UN sanctions," she said.