Friday, March 18, 2005

Putin, European Leaders Agree on Iran Nuclear Program -- by Bloomberg

You just gotta love these guys; they won't believe Iran is building bombs until a few go off in Western Cities; and then, maybe!(It isn't easy refraining from inserting comments into the story; most of you will figure them out anyway.) -- Ichabod Crane
Putin, European Leaders Agree on Iran Nuclear Program (Update3)
March 18 (Bloomberg) –

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac said Russia’s $1 billion project to construct a nuclear-power plant in Iran is not in conflict with their attempts to dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuclear-weapons program.

``We have a common interest in Iran not having atomic and nuclear weapons,’’ Schroeder said at a news conference in Paris today after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chirac and Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. ``The Russian policy is in this spirit.’’

Russia is building a nuclear reactor in the southern Iranian city of Bushehr to generate electricity. The U.S. has urged Putin to abandon the project, arguing that Iran, the Middle East’s second-biggest oil producer, doesn’t need nuclear energy and is building the reactor to help it develop nuclear weapons.

France, Germany, and the U.K. have been seeking to persuade Iran to limit its nuclear program through negotiations and economic incentives. The United Nations atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has criticized Iran for failing to cooperate fully with the body’s inspectors.

``There’s no contradiction between the Russian position and the position that the U.K., Germany and France are trying to negotiate,’’ Chirac told the news conference. He denied that the three European Union countries are coming under pressure from the U.S. over the issue, saying negotiations are being held ``in a spirit of total transparency toward our U.S. friends.’’

Putin repeated today that he is convinced Iran’s recent actions prove the nation isn’t seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

`Transparent Policy’

The Iranian government wants ``to have a transparent policy,’’ Putin said.

``We have signed a very important contract with Iran on the return of nuclear waste to Russia. In agreement with this treaty we are going to observe in a very close manner the approach of the Iranian authorities in this field.’’

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said March 12 that other countries are viewing the Iranian nuclear program ``with double standards.’’

``Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear technology,’’ Khatami said.

``However, we are ready to cooperate with the world to give more assurances that we’re not pursuing the construction of nuclear weapons.’’

Russia took over the Bushehr contract after Ukraine pulled out of an agreement to supply turbines for the plant in 1998 because of pressure from the U.S. and Israel.

Energy Meeting

Russia, which supplies about a quarter of natural gas annually consumed in Europe, will hold a meeting with energy ministers from France, Spain and Germany in two months in Moscow, Zapatero said.

``Russia is a very much respected and reliable supplier’’ of energy, Schroeder said. ``It’s in our best interests to strengthen this cooperation.’’

Putin also said he is keen to for Russia to work more closely with the EU on aerospace projects. European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. is in talks to buy a 10 percent stake in OAO Irkut Corp., a Russian maker of Sukhoi fighter planes that agreed Dec. 21 to sell $200 million of components to Airbus over 10 years.

``We have good perspectives for military cooperation,’’ Putin said. ``We also have good perspectives for building medium-haul planes.’’

Syrian Troops

The four leaders issued a statement urging the ``complete withdrawal’’ of Syrian troops from Lebanon. International pressure for Syria to withdraw has been mounting since the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a billionaire businessman.

Syria will withdraw all its troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon before parliamentary elections are held by the middle of May, acceding to a U.S. demand not to make the pullout conditional on formation of a new government, the United Nations said yesterday.

In contrast to President George W. Bush, who last month pressed Putin to fulfill his country’s commitment to democracy, Chirac, Schroeder and Zapatero took a more conciliatory approach, stressing the importance of the EU’s partnership with Russia.

Putin’s stepping-up of government control of his country’s media and an end to the direct election of regional governors have drawn criticism from other countries over the past two years.


The bankruptcy of OAO Yukos Oil Co. after the government demanded $28 billion in taxes and the Kremlin’s attempt to consolidate control of the Russian energy industry before allowing foreigners to buy more of natural gas company OAO Gazprom have also raised concerns Putin is seeking to tighten control of business.

The EU leaders also sought to soothe Russian concerns over their relationship with Ukraine. Schroeder said that during a visit to Germany March 9 President Viktor Yushchenko spoke of his country’s ``close’’ relations with both the EU and Russia, with whom the Ukraine has an ``eternal partnership.’’

``There are special relations between Russia and Ukraine -- there are some industries in our economies that can not survive without each other,’’ said Putin, who backed Yushchenko’s opponent Viktor Yanukovych in December’s disputed presidential election, while Yushchenko was supported by western countries.

Russia is Ukraine’s biggest trading partner, and about 85 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe go via Ukraine.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Emma Vandore in Paris at ; Halia Pavliva in Paris at 7714 or .
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Catherine Hickley at ; Chris Kirkham at Heather Harris at .

Last Updated: March 18, 2005 17:07 EST

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