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    Iran denies reports of Russians leaving Bushehr NPP

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    Russian specialists working on the construction of the Bushehr NPP in Iran are not leaving the Middle East country despite some media reports, an Iranian official said Tuesday.

    TEHRAN, April 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russian specialists working on the construction of the Bushehr NPP in Iran are not leaving the Middle East country despite some media reports, an Iranian official said Tuesday.

    Western media cited European diplomatic sources and U.S. officials in March as saying that large numbers of Russian experts were leaving Bushehr in the wake of the financing problems, but Atomstroyexport, the Russian contractor for the nuclear power plant construction, denied the reports.

    "None of the Russian specialists have left the Bushehr NPP, just a rotation of personnel has taken place," Mohammad Saidi, a deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said.

    Same media reports were also denied last week by Mikhail Kamynin, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

    "Unfortunately, some mass media sources have been circulating unsubstantiated reports about the alleged evacuation of Russians from Iran, particularly of specialists working on the Bushehr NPP construction," Mikhail Kamynin said. "This [the information] does not correspond with reality."

    The $1 billion project being built under a 1995 contract was in jeopardy after Atomstroyexport said Tehran had not made any payments for the NPP construction since mid-January, and that by the fourth quarter of 2006 the project had only received 60% of the required funding. The company warned that the launch of the NPP and nuclear fuel deliveries could be delayed as a result.

    "Financial and technical problems that emerged at the beginning of the year are being resolved in a calm and business-like way during working meetings between Iranian customers and the Russian contractor," Kamynin said.

    Last Monday Atomstroyexport announced that Tehran had resumed financing of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and it had received the first payment from Iran.

    The $1-billion Bushehr project implemented under the supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog, was originally scheduled for commissioning at the end of 2006. But the date has been postponed five times.

    The project was originally started by Germany's Siemens in 1975, but work stopped following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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