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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5 More Iranian Reactors in Russia's Plans

Brushing aside U.S. concerns, the government has indicated that it plans to continue building new nuclear reactors in Iran like one that American officials have repeatedly warned could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Russia's assistance in building a nuclear plant in the city of Bushehr, near the Persian Gulf, has been a nagging irritant in relations with the United States for years. It produced the sourest note in otherwise friendly meetings between Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin here in May.

While administration officials have pressed Russia to break its contract to complete a 1,000-megawatt reactor at Bushehr, a document approved last week by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and announced on Friday outlined plans to build three more reactors at the site.

The document also indicated that Russia would offer to build two more reactors at a new nuclear power station at Akhvaz, a city about 100 kilometers from Iran's border with Iraq.

That appeared to contradict remarks earlier this month by Nuclear Power Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, who said the cooperation with Iran in developing its nuclear-power industry would end with the project at Bushehr.

Russia's plans were released on the government's official web site on Friday, without public comment, as part of a draft resolution outlining potential areas of economic, industrial and scientific cooperation with Iran over the next 10 years.

The 12-page document was worked out by Iranian and Russian representatives "taking into account the traditionally friendly relations between the two governments," the resolution says.

It says Slavneft and the National Iranian Drilling Company will work together to expand oil drilling in Iran, and proposes Russian help in building pipelines to bring Iranian oil to market, including one from Iran to India. It also proposes Russian help for Iranian exploration efforts in the Caspian Sea.

Washington has championed pipeline routes to Western markets that would skirt the Caspian's biggest players -- Russia and Iran. Moscow and Tehran, meanwhile, have been in dispute with each other and the other three Caspian states over how to divide the sea's resources.

Russia and Iran also plan to work together on a global navigation system that the resolution says would be used for geological research and monitoring a transport corridor between their countries. Russia proposes helping Iran launch communications satellites and providing it with satellite photos for geological research.

The two countries hope to set up a joint venture to produce Tu-204 and Tu-334 passenger aircraft in Iran.

In Washington, Bush administration officials said Russian cooperation with Iran's nuclear energy program would be on the agenda this week when Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham leads a U.S. delegation to Russia to discuss energy and nuclear proliferation issues.

"Our concerns with regards to Russian cooperation with Iran on the issue of Bushehr are well known," said Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "We have expressed them in public as well as in private directly to Russian President Putin. And we will continue to work with Russia on proliferation issues of concern."

Russia, like Iran, has repeatedly dismissed the American concerns about the project, insisting that it is a purely civilian effort to develop new energy sources. But the Bush administration fears that the Iranians will use Russian equipment and expertise to pursue a secret program to produce nuclear weapons that could threaten Europe and the United States.

In recent months, Russian officials have sought to defuse the Bush administration's complaints, saying Russia would insist that Iran return the plutonium produced by the reactor as a byproduct of power generation to prevent it from being used in weapons.

After their meetings in May, Bush said Putin had assured him that Russia would press Iran to allow extensive international inspections of the plant.

Iran has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has previously said it will cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which oversees the world's civilian nuclear power programs.

After Friday's announcement, the chairman of the State Duma's committee on foreign affairs, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia's plans should not hurt relations with the United States since Moscow shares Washington's worries.

"Neither Russia nor the United States is interested in other countries' use of peaceful nuclear technologies for military purposes," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

(NYT, AP)