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Russian Official Heads To Iran For Nuke Fuel Deal

25 February 2005 -- Aleksandr Rumyantsev, the head of Russia's federal nuclear energy agency, is expected to leave for Tehran today to sign an agreement with Iran on the return to Russia of spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr atomic power plant, which Russia is building in Iran.

Reports say the signing of the protocol is set for tomorrow.

The agreement is expected to clear the way for the completion of the $800 million Bushehr plant and the start of its operation by early 2006.

The return of the spent nuclear fuel to Russia is seen as a safeguard to prevent Iran from potentially reprocessing the material to extract plutonium, which could be used in a nuclear weapon.

Iran denies any plans to make nuclear weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush, at their Bratislava summit Thursday, said they agreed that Iran and North Korea should not have nuclear weapons.