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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

At G-8, Putin Calls for Checks on Iran

APFrench President Jacques Chirac, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sharing a laugh while chatting with President Vladimir Putin ahead of their last meeting Tuesday in Evian, Fr
EVIAN, France -- President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia would continue building a nuclear power station for Iran, but insisted Tehran's nuclear program had to come under stricter international control.

Putin reaffirmed his commitment to the Bushehr plant as the Group of Eight industrial nations put Iran and North Korea on notice that they will not stand by and let them acquire nuclear weapons.

"We cooperate with Iran, our neighbor, and will cooperate further with Iran," Putin told a news conference at the end of the G-8 summit.

"At the same time we believe the decisive role in nonproliferation must be played by the IAEA. ... We will insist that the entire Iranian program in the nuclear sphere be placed under the control of the IAEA."

The remarks came after a senior British official told the BBC on Monday that Putin told other leaders in Evian that Russia would halt "all nuclear exports" until Iran signed up to tougher nuclear inspections.

A senior Russian official at the summit said Moscow has called on Iran to allay international concerns about its nuclear program before the June 16 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA board meets at its Vienna headquarters on June 16-17 to hear a report from its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, on Iran's nuclear activities.

IAEA inspectors have been visiting nuclear sites that Washington says may be hiding a nuclear weapons program.

The Russian official in Evian, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not say what measures Russia might take if Iran did not allay its concerns before the IAEA meeting.

The G-8 leaders signed a declaration putting Iran and North Korea on notice, though there were differences over whether it endorsed the possible use of force.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States reads the declaration as implicitly authorizing the use of force against countries that violate international nonproliferation norms.

The United States alleges that Iran is developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program and has called on Russia to halt cooperation on the construction of the Bushehr plant. Washington believes technology from that project could help Iran develop nuclear weapons.

Other G-8 leaders insisted that the summit declaration on nonproliferation did not endorse the use of military force should Iraq fail to meet its commitments on the transparency of its nuclear program. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien answered "no" when asked whether the declaration would allow military action should Iran be shown to be pursuing nuclear weapons, and French President Jacques Chirac said problems with Iran must be resolved by diplomacy.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der said that "all participants" at the G-8 summit had ruled out the use of force. Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, said U.S. President George W. Bush told him and other G-8 leaders that speculation about a U.S. attack against Iran because of its suspected nuclear programs "doesn't have any foundation."

"This interpretation seems to be extraordinarily daring. There never was any talk of using force against anyone. We wish to have with Iran the necessary dialogue so they accept the international constraints of the IAEA which allows the containing the dangerous development of military nuclear technology," Chirac said.

In Tehran, Iranian state radio blamed the United States on Tuesday for the G-8 summit's warning. Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons.

The G-8 leaders also said efforts by North Korea's government to produce enriched uranium and plutonium, both usable for nuclear weapons, undermine agreements to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction -- moving their position closer to that of Bush.

"We strongly urge North Korea to visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs," the declaration said.

Chretien said there was a great deal of focus on North Korea, but that the G-8 leaders did not have a "very clear answer" on what to do. "We don't have a solution," Chretien said.

In Moscow, the Nuclear Power Ministry said the Bushehr plant will come on line later than planned and Russia will not provide any fuel until it signs an agreement with Iran for returning the spent fuel.

Nuclear Power Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said the plant is now set to open in 2005 and not next year as originally planned, Interfax reported.

He explained the delay by the need to replace some of the equipment initially provided by Germany's Siemens before it abandoned the project after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"Russian experts have determined that much of the German equipment was unfit for use and had to be replaced with Russian analogues," Rumyantsev told Interfax.

However, Iranian officials have said they expected the Bushehr reactor to come on line later this year, and Rumyantsev's statement could indicate that Moscow was heeding U.S. appeals to slow down the contract until Iran proves it is not covertly building nuclear weapons.

Rumyantsev said his ministry was working together with Tehran on details of how Iran will return the spent fuel from Bushehr, but did not say when the documents would be finalized.

He said it would take at least 10 years from now for Iran to have any spent fuel to ship back to Russia.

Nuclear Power Ministry spokesman Nikolai Shingaryov said Tuesday that Russia would not supply any fuel for Bushehr until the agreement on its return is signed.

Shingaryov said Iran was ready to sign the document and the delay in signing was purely technical and was explained by the need to coordinate with Russian government agencies.

Meanwhile, Putin told reporters in Evian on Tuesday he appreciated that Bush had not moved to punish Russia for its opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"The president of the United States could have behaved differently. He could have taken offense, he might not have come to St. Petersburg," Putin said, referring to the meeting of world leaders in his native city last weekend.

"But President Bush chose a different tactic, a different way. He has proved to be a serious politician who wants to develop relations with Russia," he said.

Putin returned to Moscow late Tuesday.

(AFP, AP, Reuters)