Iran Urges Azeris to Release Atomic Plant Parts

TEHRAN — Iran has urged Azerbaijan to release Russian parts for the Islamic Republic's first nuclear power plant, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

Russia says Azeri officials held up a shipment of heat insulators at the border with Iran last month that was destined for the Bushehr nuclear plant being built by a Russian contractor.

"We call on the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan to carry out the necessary measures for the delivery of the consignment to the Islamic Republic of Iran," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said at a news conference.

Iran has asked Azerbaijan's ambassador in Tehran "to do his utmost so as to deliver the consignment," he said.

"The consignment is within the framework of Iran-Russia cooperation with respect to the completion of Bushehr power plant. There is no ban regarding the consignment," he said.

Azeri customs officials say the cargo needs a special permit that was not supplied.

The United States and Russia say the plant would negate Tehran's need to enrich uranium itself. Western nations fear Iran is seeking to master enrichment technology to make nuclear bombs.

Russia has already delivered nuclear fuel under a $1 billion contract to build the Bushehr plant, and Iranian officials say the reactor is likely to be started up in 2008.