Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 97

On May 18, only a day after proliferation issues figured prominently in talks between Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, Russia and Iran announced their intention to explore expanding their cooperation in the area of nuclear energy. The announcement came at the end of a week-long visit to Moscow by Gholamreza Aghazedeh, Iranian Vice President and head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. The visit was reportedly devoted primarily to discussion of the Bushehr nuclear plant, an $850 million project undertaken by Russia despite strenuous objections by the United States. The two sides reportedly agreed upon a new timetable for construction of the Bushehr plant, though no details were announced.

The Iranian delegation also discussed with Russian officials other projects in the area of nuclear energy, including the possible construction by Moscow of a research reactor in Iran. But no agreements in that area were reached. Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov nevertheless said that the Bushehr plant would not be the only large nuclear facility in Iran to be built by Russia. (Reuter, Russian agencies, May 18)

The United States has opposed Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation on the grounds that it undermines Washington’s efforts to isolate Iran and because it could aid what the United States says are Tehran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Russian and Iranian officials have denied the latter charge. Moscow argues that the Bushehr plant will be overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency and that Iran has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Tehran says that it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons, a claim that Aghazedeh repeated on May 18.