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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lawmaker Says Russia Using Iran as a ‘Pawn’

TEHRAN, Iran — A senior Iranian lawmaker said Russia is using the Islamic republic as a “pawn” in Moscow’s dealings with other powers such as the United States.

Heshmatollah Falahatpishe, a member of the parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, was reacting to talks between the U.S. and Russian presidents and Moscow’s announcement of a new delay in building Iran’s first nuclear power reactor.

“Russian officials once more sold Iran to the Americans at a higher price,” Falahatpishe said in an interview published Tuesday in the Andishe No newspaper.

Referring to a meeting in Singapore on Sunday between Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama, the lawmaker said, “They had previously also colluded against Iran and [an] example is the delay in the commissioning of the Bushehr nuclear power plant that was supposed to be completed by 2009, but … we see the Russians are reporting another delay.”

“Unfortunately, the Russians have always used Iran as a pawn in their dealings with other powers,” he said.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who heads the national security and foreign policy committee, also has criticized Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko’s announcement Monday that technical issues would prevent Russian engineers from starting up the Bushehr nuclear power plant by year-end.

“This hasty expression by [the] Russian energy minister does not look normal,” he said Monday.

Other Iranian lawmakers also criticized the latest delay in the construction of Bushehr, even though Shmatko said politics had nothing to do with the decision.

“The Russians should know if they politicize the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant project, then ... ties between Iran and Russia would face many changes,” Hamidreza Katouzian, head of the Iranian parliament’s energy committee, told state radio.

Diplomats say Russia uses the Bushehr reactor — and major arms contracts — as levers in relations with Tehran, which is suspected by the United States and other Western powers of seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

Medvedev said Sunday after meeting Obama that Moscow was not completely happy about the pace of dialogue between Iran and the international community over Tehran’s nuclear program. Obama said time was running out for diplomacy after Iran failed to give a clear answer on a UN-drafted proposal to send low-enriched uranium to Russia and France, where it would be turned into fuel for a Tehran medical research reactor.

Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, rejects allegations that it is seeking to build an atomic bomb and says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity.