June 28, 2005

Russia wants to build more nuke reactors for Iran

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia wants to construct up to six newnuclear reactors for Iran, despite U.S. criticism of itsassistance to the Islamic republic, Moscow's top nuclear bosswas quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Russia has pressed ahead with construction of Iran's firstnuclear power plant near the southern city of Bushehr,dismissing Washington's belief that Tehran could use Moscow'stechnology and know-how to make an atom bomb. "When Iranannounces new tenders to construct nuclear reactors, we'll takepart in them," Alexander Rumyantsev, head of Russia's AtomicEnergy Agency, told Itar-Tass news agency.

"Tehran intends to build another six nuclear reactors."

Rumyantsev's remarks came just days after Russian PresidentVladimir Putin said Moscow would continue developing nuclearties with Iran after ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad'selection as president of the Islamic Republic last week.

Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

For Russia, Iran is a key market in the Middle East as itseeks a bigger share of the global nuclear industry, but Moscowis worried it may lose its near-monopoly status there as itsWestern rivals try to push into the Iranian market.

Moscow and Tehran, whose nuclear ties date back to theearly 1990s, signed a fuel supply deal earlier this year thatpaved the way for Bushehr to start up in late 2006.

Once operational, Bushehr will generate 1,000 megawatts ofelectricity. Initiated before Iran's 1979 Islamic revolutionand badly damaged during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the projectwas later revived with Russian help and has cost about $1billion.