Blair: Russia Suspending Fuel to Iran

ReutersAyatollah Khamenei speaking on the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini.
LONDON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that Russia had pledged at a G-8 meeting in France to suspend exports of nuclear fuel to Iran until Tehran met demands from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Blair said the Group of Eight industrialized countries "emphasized the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program and called on Iran to sign and implement an IAEA additional protocol without delay and without conditions."

President Vladimir Putin "made clear that in the meantime Russia would suspend its exports of nuclear fuel to Iran," Blair told Parliament in his report on the Evian summit.

"These are important steps to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and I welcome them," he said.

At the close of the summit Tuesday, Putin said Russia would continue building a nuclear power station for Iran but insisted Tehran's nuclear program had to come under stricter international control.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking after meeting NATO ministers in Madrid on Wednesday, said Russia's support for the $800 million Bushehr power station was "in accordance with our international undertakings."

Iran has yet to sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which it signed in 1970, that allows IAEA inspections at short notice.

"We have expressed our view to our Iranian partners, and we have called on them to sign up to the IAEA supplementary protocol," Ivanov told a news conference. "We believe that if they do that and IAEA inspection functions are expanded in relation to the Iranian nuclear program, we think that would serve to greatly reduce the concerns that ... countries have expressed."

Ivanov also insisted that any nuclear fuel supplied to Bushehr would be returned to Russia after reprocessing.

Russian officials have said the Bushehr project is consistent with a civil nuclear program. They deny U.S. accusations that Iran has no need for nuclear power and is secretly trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

But Moscow has in recent weeks responded to long-standing U.S. calls to stop helping Iran's nuclear development by agreeing to ensure Tehran's program meets requirements of the IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday mocked U.S. accusations that Iran was an undemocratic haven for terrorists and warned a military attack on Iran would be suicidal.

"The American threats are not new. They have threatened us since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution," Khamenei said in a speech to mark the 14th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founding father of the Islamic republic.

"They know that militarily attacking Iran and the Iranian nation would mean suicide for the aggressor," he said.

He was responding to reports -- following the G-8 summit's warning that the world would not tolerate an Iranian nuclear bomb -- that Washington might be planning to attack Iran, as it had leveled similar charges against Iraq.