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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abraham Says U.S. Concerned About Nuclear Deal With Iran

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on Thursday reaffirmed the White House's strong concern about Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran.

"The expansion of Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran remains an issue of utmost concern to us," Abraham said. "It has been raised to the highest levels, we are in the middle of sensitive discussions on this matter."

Abraham and Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who handles arms control issues, met Wednesday with Nuclear Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev.

The visits by the two top U.S. officials were planned long ago, but they came just days after the Russian government announced an ambitious 10-year plan for cooperation with Iran that envisages building five nuclear reactors there in addition to the one already under construction.

Abraham on Thursday would not comment on the specific details of discussions on Iran, but he reaffirmed the administration's strong belief that Russia's cooperation with Iran was helping advance its nuclear weapons program.

"We have long been concerned that Iran's only interest in nuclear civil power, given its vast domestic energy resources, is to support its nuclear weapons program," Abraham said. "For that reason, we have consistently urged Russia to cease all nuclear cooperation with Iran, including its assistance to the reactor in Bushehr."

Interfax, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, reported that Russian officials would brief their Iranian counterparts about Abraham's and Bolton's visits in talks scheduled for Aug. 20-22.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said Thursday that Washington has also been concerned "about potential assistance Iran is gaining from contacts with Russia in respect to chemical and biological weapons, and also of the implications of the transfer of advanced conventional weapons."