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    Russia's Security Council has denied reports in the U.S. media that Moscow issued an ultimatum to Iran over its uranium enrichment activities, the council's press service said Tuesday.

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    MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Security Council has denied reports in the U.S. media that Moscow issued an ultimatum to Iran over its uranium enrichment activities, the council's press service said Tuesday.

    Iran has been at the center of international concerns since January 2006 over its nuclear program, which some countries, particularly the United States, suspect is geared toward nuclear weapons development. Tehran has consistently denied the claims, saying it needs nuclear power for civilian purposes.

    "The allegations made in The New York Times that Russia delivered an ultimatum during Russian-Iranian consultations March 12 in Moscow have no relation to reality," the service said.

    It said there was no link between a resolution of Iran's nuclear problem and completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant by the Russian side.

    Talks on the construction of the Bushehr NPP will continue after the New Year holiday in the Islamic Republic, starting March 21, the project contractor said Monday.

    The talks that started in Tehran last Monday were supposed to resolve Iran's outstanding debt to Atomstroyexport, which said last month that Tehran had delayed payment for two months and warned that the launch of the NPP and nuclear fuel deliveries could be delayed as a result.

    Iran has denied the non-payment, accusing Russia of being pressured by the West, which is trying to force Tehran to end its nuclear program.

    Moscow warned the plant could not go into service in September as planned, and that nuclear fuel would not be supplied to the NPP in March - six months before the launch, as stipulated by the construction agreement - due to the financial problems.

    The plant is scheduled to go online in the second half of 2007 after the original date, at the end of 2006, was put back. To date, the launch has been postponed five times. The project was originally started by Germany's Siemens in 1975, but work stopped with the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

    In response to Iran's unwillingness to give up its nuclear ambitions, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1737 last December, which provided for sanctions against Iran banning activities involving uranium enrichment, chemical reprocessing, heavy water-based projects, and the production of nuclear weapons delivery systems.

    Iran's foreign minister said earlier Tehran is prepared to answer any questions about its nuclear research posed by the international nuclear watchdog.

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