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    Russia expects Iran to resume Bushehr payment schedule - Kiriyenko

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    Russia is hoping that Iran will resume a regular payment schedule for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Russia's nuclear chief said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is hoping that Iran will resume a regular payment schedule for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Russia's nuclear chief said Tuesday.

    Russian contractor Atomstroyexport received March 26 the first payment for the construction of Bushehr since financing was interrupted in February and Russia suspended fuel deliveries to the plant.

    "Russia received $15 million from Iran in the first quarter of 2007," Sergei Kiriyenko said. "It is good to know that our Iranian colleagues have overcome difficulties with Bushehr NPP payments, and we hope that Tehran will resume a regular payment schedule in the near future."

    The head of the Russian Nuclear Power Agency said that talks on the Bushehr payments are continuing, and the Islamic Republic's vice president confirmed earlier Tuesday that Russian officials would arrive soon in Tehran to sign a new agreement on the financing of Bushehr.

    "A Russian delegation will arrive in Tehran in the next two-three days to sign an agreement on the financing of the Bushehr NPP construction," Gholamreza Agazade told a news conference, adding that all financial disputes between Russia and Iran had been settled.

    Atomstroyexport earlier said it received 60% of the funding in the fourth quarter of last year, $5.1 million in January and no financing in February. Russian nuclear officials said the plant could not go into service in September as planned over the delays, and that nuclear fuel would not be supplied to the plant in March.

    Iranian officials claimed they were funding the project on time. However, Mahmoud Jannatian, a senior Iranian nuclear official in charge of the Bushehr nuclear power plant project, stepped down Monday from his post after handing in his resignation a few weeks ago, presumably over managerial problems.

    The Bushehr facility, scheduled to be commissioned in the second half of 2007, after the original date at the end of 2006 was delayed, has been a source of international dispute, with the United States and other Western countries, raising concerns that Iran could use the project as part of a covert weapons program.

    Iran has consistently denied that its nuclear program has military goals.

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