TEHRAN, January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia delivered on Friday the third fuel shipment to the Bushehr nuclear power plant it is building in southern Iran, the country's official news agency said, citing officials.
IRNA quoted the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran as saying that 11 metric tons of low-enriched uranium had been delivered to the plant, which has been the focus of international attention over fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
The shipment is the third Russia has supplied to the Islamic Republic under a contract. The remaining five batches will be delivered according to a previously agreed timetable.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the director general of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, said Russia will complete fuel supplies to Bushehr NPP in February.
"In February we will complete the supplies, and actual work with the fuel at the plant will start in July-August," he said.
The first delivery to the plant, being built by Russian contractor Atomstroyexport, came on December 16, 2007 following months of project delays that Moscow attributed to payment arrears, but which Iran blamed on pressure from Western nations.
Under a bilateral intergovernmental contract, Russia is set to deliver a total of 82 metric tons of fuel divided into eight batches. Deliveries are monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
United States President George W. Bush, who has led international calls for sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze its nuclear program, said last month that he supported the start of Russia's enriched uranium deliveries to the Islamic Republic, and that Tehran no longer has any excuse to develop its own enrichment capabilities.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed Bush's comments in late December, saying it would not be economically useful for Iran to continue its uranium enrichment program.
However, Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali-Hamenei insisted earlier this month that Tehran would continue enriching uranium for future nuclear power plants.
Tehran plans to hold tenders for the construction of 19 new nuclear reactors.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).