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US Opposes Russia's Nuclear Cooperation with Iran - 2002-08-01

A senior official in the Bush administration said the United States is very concerned about Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham made the comments during a visit to the Russian capital.

Following two-days of talks with Russian officials, Energy Secretary Abraham made clear Washington's opposition to Russia's plans to expand its nuclear cooperation with Iran.

"No one should be under any impression that we treat this as anything except of the utmost concern. And those concerns have been frankly and directly conveyed during our meetings here," Mr. Abraham said.

Russia is already helping Iran build a nuclear reactor in Bushehr, near the Persian Gulf, a project often criticized by the United States.

Last week, the Russian government announced plans to dramatically increase the number of nuclear power plants it would help Iran build.

Energy Secretary Abraham said Washington believes Iran is aggressively trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, as well as long-range missiles to deliver nuclear warheads.

"We have long been concerned that Iran's only interest in nuclear power, given its vast domestic energy resources, is to support its nuclear weapons program. For that reason we have consistently urged Russia to cease all nuclear cooperation with Iran," Mr. Abraham said.

Moscow has said repeatedly that it is working with Iran on a project that is entirely civilian and has no relation to the military.

Iran denies that it is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.

During Mr. Abraham's visit to Moscow, he met with Alexander Rumyantsev, head of the Russian Atomic Ministry and one of the main backers of nuclear cooperation with Iran.

The energy secretary also met with representatives from Russian oil and gas companies.

President George Bush has said he would like to make the United States less dependent on oil from the Middle East. As part of that effort, the American President has welcomed greater cooperation with Russian oil companies.