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US Opposes Russian Nuclear Cooperation With Iran - 2002-07-31

Senior U.S. officials are in Moscow Wednesday for talks expected to focus on nuclear issues. But the talks are being overshadowed by Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran.

The visit by U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Undersecretary of State John Bolton comes just a few days after Moscow announced it would be expanding nuclear cooperation with Iran, something Washington strongly opposes.

Russia is already helping Iran build a nuclear facility in Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf. Last week, the Russian Government outlined a plan to dramatically increase the number of reactors it would help build.

Although relations between Moscow and Washington have blossomed after September 11, Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran has been a constant sore point.

The United States says it is afraid Iran will use the Russian equipment and technology to try to make nuclear weapons. Moscow says the program is an entirely civilian project, unrelated to the military.

When Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Moscow last May, the Iran issue was one of the few bones of contention in an almost tension-free summit.

During his Moscow visit, Mr. Bolton is also expected to discuss a plan by the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries to help Russia dismantle weapons of mass destruction.

At the Canada summit in June, the G-8 leaders agreed to give Russia some $20 billion over 10 years, to safely dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Bolton is also expected to discuss nuclear weapons issues with his counterpart, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov.

During their summit in May, Presidents Bush and Putin signed a treaty cutting their nuclear weapons arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads apiece.