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Russia, Iran Deny Report Of Enrichment Ultimatum

Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant (Fars) March 20, 2007 -- "The New York Times," quoting anonymous sources, reported that Russia has threatened to withhold fuel for Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant unless Tehran suspends its uranium-enrichment program, as the UN Security Council demands.

The newspaper said on March 19 that the ultimatum was delivered in Moscow last week by Igor Ivanov, the secretary of Russia's National Security Council, to Ali Hosseini Tash, Iran's deputy chief nuclear negotiator. The report cited European, U.S., and Iranian officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

But Tash today denied that Russia had issued an ultimatum. He told state radio that Russia had in fact tried to convince him that the Bushehr issue is not linked to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Russia's National Security Council has also denied the report.

The Russian state-run firm helping Iran build the Bushehr plant announced this month it was halting planned deliveries of uranium fuel because of what it said was Iran's failure to pay on time.

Tehran ignored a UN deadline on February 21 to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities, which the West fears could be used to build nuclear weapons.

Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for energy.

(Reuters, AFP,

Talking Technical

Talking Technical

A control panel at the Bushehr nuclear power plant (Fars)

CASCADES AND CENTRIFUGES: Experts and pundits alike continue to debate the goals and status of Iran's nuclear program. It remains unclear whether the program is, as Tehran insists, a purely peaceful enegy project or, as the United States claims, part of an effort to acquire nuclear weapons.
On June 7, 2006, RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel spoke with nuclear expert Shannon Kile of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden to help sort through some of the technical issues involved. "[Natanz] will be quite a large plant," Kile said. "There will be about 50,000 centrifuges and how much enriched uranium that can produce [is] hard to say because the efficiency of the centrifuges is not really known yet. But it would clearly be enough to be able to produce enough [highly-enriched uranium] for a nuclear weapon in fairly short order, if that's the route that they chose to go...." (more)


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THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.