July 17, 2005

Russia may probe funding of Iranian reactor-media

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian prosecutors may examine the
financing of a nuclear reactor Moscow is building in Iran after
a former Russian minister was arrested, local media quoted the
head of Russia's Audit Chamber as saying on Sunday.

Sergei Stepashin said any investigation might look at the
activities of former atomic energy minister Yevgeny Adamov, who
was arrested in Switzerland in May on a request for the United
States, which wants to try him for fraud.

"We are waiting for material from Iranian colleagues in the
near future; we will study it carefully along with our
specialists at the Atomic Energy Ministry, and I think it is a
serious job for the Prosecutor General," Interfax news agency
quoted Stepashin as saying in a television interview.

Adamov's term as minister was marked by his resolve to push
ahead with construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant
near the southern city of Bushehr.

Washington says Tehran could use the plant to make an atom
bomb -- something Russia and Iran have always denied.

Stepashin said Adamov's role might be looked at because in
1998 the Atomic Energy Ministry -- of which he was then head --
founded an organization called Atomstroiexport which dealt with
the financing of Bushehr, Interfax reported.

Stepashin said he had recently been to Iran to look at why
there had been so many delays in the building of Bushehr.

"We came to some conclusions that were not very pleasant to
us," he was quoted as saying, without elaboration.

Adamov was a minister under President Boris Yeltsin but was
ousted by Vladimir Putin, who came to power in 2000 promising
to fight corruption, after a probe into his ties to Russian

He has not denied he put money into private accounts but
has said this was a normal practice in Russia to shield money
from hyperinflation, an unstable banking system and corruption
that was rife after the collapse of communism.