AFP: Iran's launch of a Russian-built nuclear power plant will go ahead and is in no way linked to possible new sanctions over its alleged weapons programme, Russia's foreign ministry said Thursday. MOSCOW (AFP) — Iran's launch of a Russian-built nuclear power plant will go ahead and is in no way linked to possible new sanctions over its alleged weapons programme, Russia's foreign ministry said Thursday.
"It would be wrong to make any links between the construction and the launch of the plant and the growing need to take new measures towards Tehran," ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said, quoted by Russian news agencies.
In Moscow last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that going forward with the inauguration of the nuclear plant that Russia has helped build at Bushehr would send Tehran the wrong message.
But Nesterenko denied that the United States had voiced any concern over Bushehr in bilateral talks.
"I would like to put an stop to this once and for all," he said in response to a reporter's question.
"Everything is being done under IAEA regulations," he said, referring to the UN's nuclear watchdog agency.
"Spent fuel deliveries to Iran will be returned to Russia with the IAEA's seal according to the standards of all the existing technology in this field."
His comments came after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced last Thursday — on the eve of his meeting with Clinton — that the Bushehr plant would come online this summer.
Russia, which had enjoyed close ties with Tehran for many years, has shown growing irritation with Iran and has repeatedly said it may back new UN sanctions over the nuclear weapons issue.
The United States and its allies accuse Tehran of plans to build an atomic bomb, while the Islamic republic insists its nuclear drive is purely for peaceful, civilian purposes.
Statements by officials this week did more to detail Russia's stance after President Dmitry Medvedev called for "smart" sanctions against Iran in comments early this month in Paris.
A senior Russian diplomat on Wednesday stressed Moscow was against "paralysing sanctions", saying at an anonymous briefing that it will only back measures targeting non-proliferation.
Nesterenko meanwhile said measures against Iran must not aim at "the financial and economic suffocation" of the country.
Russia has been helping Iran build the power station in the southern city of Bushehr since the mid-1990s but its launch has been marred by a series of delays, not least the standoff over Iran's nuclear activities.
Clinton, who visited Moscow last week hoping to secure Russia's support for a tougher line on Iran, said Tehran was entitled to civil nuclear power but called the start-up of Bushehr premature.