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    RUSSIA-IRAN NUCLEAR ENERGY COOPERATION SHOULD INTENSIFY, EXPERT SAYS

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    MOSCOW, MARCH 17 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Russia should have a more active position in nuclear energy cooperation with Iran, director of the Center for Studying Modern Iran Radzhab Safarov said at press conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

    According to him, having concluded a contract with Iran in the middle of 1990s on the construction of the first unit of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr (the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf), Russia received an opportunity to prove to the world community that the Russian nuclear technologies correspond to the highest international standards in this sphere.

    "The Iranian project is a good possibility for Russia to prove its capability in this field. But it has been building one reactor for about nine years now which creates a certain image of the country," Safarov pointed out.

    "If the construction rates of the Bushehr nuclear power plant do not increase Russia may lose other tenders as well," he said.

    "The recent loss by Russia of a tender for the construction of two reactors in Finland was caused precisely by the situation similar to one in Bushehr," Safarov believes.

    He emphasized that two years ago the Russian government adopted a resolution on a long-term cooperation with Iran in nuclear power engineering. But despite the fact that Russia is interested in the realization of this project, the work is being done very slowly.

    Safarov believes that if the construction rates in Bushehr are not changed, the nuclear power plant will be commissioned only in late 2005 and that the full-scale exploitation of the station will be possible not earlier than the first half of 2006.

    "Russia took a wait-and-see position with respect to Iran: an impression is being created that Russia is demonstrating to the world community that it is not very much interested in cooperation with Iran but shows at the same time that it has a good potential in this field," Safarov stated.

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