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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Institute Discussed Reactor Sale to Iran

A Nuclear Power Ministry official said Wednesday that a leading Moscow science institute held talks on selling Iran a nuclear research reactor, but that no contract resulted from the negotiations.

The acknowledgement by Deputy Nuclear Power Minister Bulat Nigmatulin came a week after the United States imposed sanctions against three Russian institutes for allegedly helping Iran develop missile and nuclear capabilities.

"There were talks with Iran on building a nuclear research center in Iran, and there were different talks on heavy-water and light-water reactors," Nigmatulin said at a news conference. "These talks did not lead to anything and were halted when talks reached more concrete matters."

The United States and Israel are concerned that Iran will use such technology to build nuclear weapons.

The deputy minister named NIKIET (The Scientific Research and Design Institute of Power Technology), a nuclear reactor design center, as one of the institutions that had held the discussions with Iran.

The United States last week accused NIKIET of making "material contributions to Iran's nuclear weapons program." Under the sanctions, it will lose millions of dollars in U.S. assistance for nuclear safety and other programs.

Russia has denied rendering any sensitive missile or nuclear technology to Iran, although it is building a civilian nuclear reactor in Bushehr on Iran's Gulf coast.

The State Duma denounced the U.S. sanctions on Wednesday.

The lower house of parliament "expresses its indignation in connection with the groundless introduction of sanctions against a series of Russian organizations by the United States," read the document, which was passed 320-0, with one abstention.

The United States has also threatened to limit launches of U.S. satellites aboard Russian rockets unless Moscow halts its alleged cooperation with Iran's banned weapons programs.

Russian officials have defended cooperation with Iran at Bushehr, saying it has no military purpose, and have said the United States is trying to block Russian commercial ventures abroad.

Washington has not made public details of its evidence against the three institutes, but U.S. officials say they are sure of their facts.

"We have good evidence that these organizations have been involved in activities which result in transfers that are of great concern to us," a senior American official said Tuesday.

Nigmatulin said even if Russian institutes held talks with Iran, nothing came of it.

"If a wife dances with another man the whole night and nothing happens in the end, I don't understand why the husband would be upset and jealous," Nigmatulin said. "And they didn't even dance all night."

"When does a violation take place? When they sign a contract, when money is received and work is begun."

In its first official comment, Iran on Wednesday criticized the United States for imposing the sanctions on the three institutes, The Associated Press reported.

"Iran has merely scientific and industrial relations with the Russian companies and institutions which have been subjected to U.S. sanctions," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

He accused the United States of "gross interference in the internal affairs of other countries."