US and Russia Discuss Non-Proliferation, Iran

July 7, 2008 - 8:15 PM

Moscow (CNSNews.com) - A top U.S. official visiting Moscow is trying to persuade Russia to join a U.S.-led international non-proliferation drive, while also raising concerns about Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton held talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, but the Russian told the Interfax news agency afterwards there had been no agreement on Moscow joining the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

The PSI, first announced by President Bush a year ago, seeks to prevent rogue states and terrorists from transferring weapons of mass destruction, by interdicting cargo at sea or in the air.

It currently has the support of 13 nations, including all members of the G8 industrial group bar Russia.

Bolton also discuss proliferation issues regarding North Korea and, especially, Iran, where Russia is building a 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear reactor.

The State Department official reportedly urged Russia not to supply fuel to the $1 billion project at Bushehr on the Gulf coast until Iran addressed international suspicions that it plans to develop a nuclear weapons program.

Bolton told journalists in Moscow Thursday that differences remained between the U.S. and Russia over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Moscow and Tehran insist that the reactor can only be used for civilian purposes.

The head of Russia's Federal Nuclear Power Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, who also met with Bolton, said afterwards the U.S. was not putting pressure on Russia over Iran.

Rumyantsev said Russia complied with international agreements banning the proliferation of nuclear weapons technologies.

Moscow has brushed off repeated U.S. demands that it cancel the Bushehr project and earlier this week, atomic agency officials announced that Russia may in fact build a second reactor at Bushehr.

Some differences between Russia and Iran do remain, however.

Russia said earlier it would not begin delivering fuel for the reactor until Iran signs an agreement obliging it to send all spent fuel back to Russia for reprocessing and storage.

An agreement to that effect was said to have been close to being signed last September, but was delayed.

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that the issue had been resolved.

Russia emphasized its close relationship with Iran this week when President Vladimir Putin told the visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi that Iran remained an "old and stable partner."

Russia's interests in Iran go beyond nuclear cooperation. Moscow hopes to establish a north-south transport corridor linking Europe and Asia that would be an alternative to the Suez Canal.

The envisaged route would run from Mumbai in India, across the Arabian Sea to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, and then by rail through Iran to the Caspian Sea, through Azerbaijan, into Russia, and thence to northern Europe.

On Thursday, top railway executives of Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan agreed in Moscow to build a link between the three nations, within the broader framework of the north-south transport corridor project.

Russia estimates that the link would be able to handle 15-20 million tons of freight a year. Annual trade turnover could reach $10 billion, with Russia and Iran being the main beneficiaries.

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