Friday, February 18, 2005

Russia's Nuclear Deal with Iran Raises Middle East Temperature

Times Online:
Russia defied stern American warnings yesterday to announce that it had agreed to start shipping nuclear fuel to Iran in three months. Within hours President Bush vowed to stand by Israel if its security was threatened by Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. He said that it would be unacceptable for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

The twin announcements look certain to generate some frank exchanges when Mr Bush meets President Putin in Slovakia next week. They also raised the already high stakes in the Middle East, and Mr Bush made clear that the region would dominate his discussions with European leaders in Brussels next week. ...

But Iranian state television announced yesterday that a deal would be signed next week during a visit to Iran by Alexander Rumyantsev, head of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency.

The signing will take place on February 26, two days after the Bush-Putin summit. The first shipment of fuel will be delivered three months later, and Russia will provide fuel to Bushehr for the next ten years. Under the deal, Iran is supposed to return spent fuel to Siberian storage units, but that clause is unlikely to allay Washington’s fears that Iran will use it to obtain weapons-grade material. ...