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Russia May Rethink Plans for More Iranian Nuclear Reactors - 2002-08-03

Russian officials are indicating they may be prepared to rethink plans to build more nuclear reactors in Iran. The announcement came after three days of talks with U.S. officials, who expressed their concern about the Russian plans in Iran.

The head of Russia's nuclear energy agency, Aleksandr Rumyantsev, said in a statement that Russia would consider what he described as "political factors" before enlarging its nuclear cooperation with Iran.

The announcement is one of the first signs that Russia may be willing to rethink its plans to build more nuclear reactors in Iran. Russia is already helping Iran build a nuclear reactor in Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf. It is scheduled to begin working as early as next year. Last week, Russia said it planned to build five more nuclear reactors in Iran.

The Russian suggestion that it may reconsider these plans came as a U.S. delegation, led by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, was wrapping up three days of talks. The topic has been a sore point between Russia and the United States.

On Thursday, Energy Secretary Abraham harshly criticized Iran, saying it was trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Abraham also called on Russia to drop its nuclear cooperation with Iran and said the issue was of the "utmost concern" to the United States.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. Russia insists that its cooperation with Iran at the Bushehr site is strictly civilian in nature.

Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran has been one of the few contentious issues recently between Moscow and Washington.

The relationship between these two former enemies blossomed after September 11, when Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his firm support to the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.