VIENNA, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - A Vienna-based Russian diplomat involved in nuclear negotiations denied on Sunday Iran's claim that Russian nuclear fuel was ready to be sent to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Saturday that fuel for the plant, being built by Russia's Atomstroyexport in south Iran, was "ready, with the security seal of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]."
However the Russian delegate in Vienna, where the United Nations nuclear watchdog is based, said: "Fuel for the Bushehr NPP has been prepared, and has been stored for several years in the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrate Plant [in Siberia], but the process of sealing by international experts, which is an important step for preparing it for transport to the Bushehr NPP site, has not yet taken place."
Russian nuclear equipment export monopoly Atomstroyexport has been building Iran's first nuclear power plant despite opposition from Western countries, amid international concerns that the Islamic Republic is pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.
The plant's construction has faced repeated delays, with Russia accusing Iran of missing payment deadlines. Iran denies any funding problems, and has accused Russia of delaying tactics.
Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said on Tuesday that the plant is 95% ready, and that Tehran is not delaying its completion. He said a Russian-Iranian committee was engaged in talks on the issue.
Earlier Russian nuclear officials said the construction would be completed no earlier than fall 2008.