Putin Blames Tech Problems for Delay in Bushehr N. Power Plant

A03437401.jpgRussian President Vladimir Putin blamed technical problems for the delays in completing Iran’s first nuclear power plant, being built with Russian help. Putin said Russian engineers working on the plant in the southern city of Bushehr were coping with equipment dating back to when the project was started by Germany’s Siemens in the 1970s under the deposed shah.

“The equipment left from that time is worn-out, old and new equipment should be used. This is one of the problems preventing swift completion of the work in Bushehr,” he said in an interview with state news agency IRNA.

“The delay is because of technical and legal issues,” he added.

Speaking to reporters after the second Caspian Sea littoral states summit, he said the experts from the two sides restarted talks on the issue on Tuesday.

“We have signed an agreement with Iran that the nuclear fuel should be returned to Russia which is on top of the agenda in meeting between experts from the two sides,” he said.

He rejected that the delay is due to political reasons and said that it has remained incomplete because of technical and legal issues.

Calling the Islamic Republic of Iran as a big regional and global power, he said that Iran and Russia have friendly ties and are to broaden cooperation and activities.

The current level of trade exchanges between Iran and Russia reached $ 2 bln and this is expected to increase.

Earlier during the summit of the heads of Caspian Sea littoral states, the attending leaders, including Putin and Ahmadinejad, spoke out strongly against outside interference into Caspian Sea affairs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose trip to Tehran is the first by a Kremlin leader since World War II, warned that energy pipeline projects crossing the Caspian could only be implemented if all five nations that border the inland sea support them.

Putin did not name any specific country, but his statement underlined Moscow’s strong opposition to US-backed efforts to build pipelines to deliver hydrocarbons to the West bypassing Russia.

“Projects that may inflict serious environmental damage to the region cannot be implemented without prior discussion by all five Caspian nations,” he said.

Putin also emphasized the need for all Caspian nations to prohibit the use of their territory by any outside countries for use of military force against any nation in the region, a clear reference to long-standing rumors that the US was planning to use Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, as a staging ground for any possible military action against regional countries, including Iran.

“We are saying that no Caspian nation should offer its territory to third powers for use of force or military aggression against any Caspian state,” Putin said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also underlined the need to keep outsiders away from the Caspian.

“All Caspian nations agree on the main issue, that all aspects related to this sea must be settled exclusively by littoral nations,” he said. “The Caspian Sea is an inland sea and it only belongs to the Caspian states, therefore only they are entitled to have their ships and military forces here.”

The legal status of the Caspian, believed to contain the world’s third-largest energy reserves, has been in limbo since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Iran, which shared the Caspian’s resources equally with the Soviet Union, insists that each coastal nation receive an equal portion of the seabed. Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan want the division based on the length of each nation’s shoreline, which would give Iran a smaller share.

Putin has warned the US and other nations against trying to coerce Iran into reining in its nuclear program and insists peaceful dialogue is the only way to deal with Tehran’s defiance of a UN Security Council demand that it suspend uranium enrichment.

“Threatening someone, in this case the Iranian leadership and Iranian people, will lead nowhere,” Putin said Monday during his trip to Germany. “They are not afraid, believe me.”

Putin’s visit to Tehran is being closely watched for any possible shifts in Russia’s carefully hedged stance in the nuclear standoff.

The Russian president underlined his disagreements with Washington last week, saying he saw no “objective data” to prove Western claims that Iran is trying to construct nuclear weapons.

Putin emphasized Monday that he would negotiate in Tehran on behalf of the five permanent UN Security Council members, United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, and Germany, a group that has led efforts to resolve the stalemate with Tehran.

Putin’s schedule also called for meetings with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

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