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    Russia, Iran both seek Bushehr NPP completion - Iran diplomat

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    Russia and Iran are both interested in completing a nuclear power plant in the south of the Islamic Republic as soon as possible, the Iranian ambassador to Russia said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Iran are both interested in completing a nuclear power plant in the south of the Islamic Republic as soon as possible, the Iranian ambassador to Russia said Tuesday.

    Russia warned last month that the launch of Iran's first NPP at Bushehr and nuclear fuel deliveries could be put off over payment delays. Iran has denied the debt. Talks on the financial dispute were interrupted over New Year celebrations in the Islamic Republic due March 21.

    "Both countries are interested in the completion of the project," Gholam Reza Ansari said. "Both Russia and Iran are positive of its success, as the construction of the nuclear reactor in Bushehr is the most striking and important symbol of Russian-Iranian cooperation."

    Ansari said talks on Bushehr would resume after the holiday, when negotiators would continue their efforts to resolve the problem.

    Atomstroyexport said it had not received any payments for the NPP since mid-January, and that by the fourth quarter of 2006 the project had only received 60% of the required funding. It said the plant could not go into service in September as planned, and that nuclear fuel would not be supplied to the NPP in March as a result.

    Iran has accused Russia of succumbing to pressure from the West, which is trying to force Tehran to end its nuclear program.

    Tehran is facing fresh UN Security Council sanctions over its defiance to end uranium enrichment activities, which the world fears could lead to the production of nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the suspicions, referring to its right to pursue peaceful nuclear energy.

    Russia's ambassador at the United Nations said Tuesday a new resolution would not affect the Bushehr NPP.

    "We are treating the Bushehr NPP as a separate economic project unrelated to the previous resolution or the resolution being drafted at the moment, or discussions being held by the Iran-6 negotiators," Vitaly Churkin said referring to the five veto-wielding Security Council members and Germany.

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