Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bendukidze Celebrates Listing With Jibe at U.S.

MTUnited Heavy Machineries CEO and main shareholder, Kaha Bendukidze
United Heavy Machineries on Tuesday became only the fourth Russian company to be fully listed on the London Stock Exchange -- and the industrial giant's CEO and main shareholder, Kaha Bendukidze, took the opportunity to attack American foreign policy.

Bendukidze's company, known by its Russian acronym OMZ, is near the tail end of a $56 million contract to build the outer shell and primary circuit of Iran's controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant, which the United States fears could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Bendukidze called senseless the assertion that the light-water reactor used to power the $800 million plant could fuel a covert nuclear weapons program.

"No one in the world could explain how to use it as a weapon -- unless you drop it on the head of a general," Bendukidze told an investment conference.

Washington has been putting increasing pressure on Moscow to refrain from supplying Iran with so-called dual-use technology. And although Russia is not backing down on the supply of technology, President Vladimir Putin joined his counterpart George W. Bush in urging Tehran to step up its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency during their meeting in Camp David over the weekend.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov backed up Putin's remarks in the United Nations on Tuesday, urging his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi to be more open about his nation's nuclear projects.

On Monday, Iran acknowledged that traces of weapons-grade plutonium had been found on some equipment on its soil, but argued that the equipment could have been contaminated abroad.

Bendukidze also criticized the United States for its general opposition to nuclear power in Iran, suggesting Washington was guilty of applying a double standard since it helped another "axis of evil country" -- North Korea -- build a Bushehr-like reactor under the Clinton administration in exchange for a promise that Pyongyang would not pursue its nuclear arms program. North Korea promptly reneged on that promise.

"Iran is better than North Korea," Bendukidze said. "At least in Iran they have elections and ... student uprisings."

But with only $1 million worth of work to go on its Bushehr contract, OMZ is hoping to turn its attention to Finland, where it is favored to win a contract to help build that country's fifth nuclear reactor.

OMZ is competing with U.S. General Electric and French Framatom-Siemens for a contract to build the reactor's outer shell and primary circuit, and Bendukidze said a decision is expected as early as next week.

He said OMZ's quality and safety standards are as high or higher than its competitors, but the company, unlike its competitors, cannot offer financing.

"Only the Russian government can provide this guarantee" because nuclear power is a political issue, he said.

Izhorskiye, now part of OMZ, built two of Finland's four nuclear reactors almost 20 years ago.

Nonetheless, analysts in Moscow were optimistic about OMZ's prospects.