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Russia's Putin says confident Iran has no nuclear arms plans

Friday, 17-Oct-2003 7:20AM PDT
Story from AFP
Copyright 2003 by Agence France-Presse (via ClariNet)

MOSCOW, Oct 17 (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he was confident that Iran had no ambitions to develop nuclear weapons and urged the Islamic state to agree to tougher UN inspections of its suspect facilities.

Putin told the Al-Jazeera network in comments reported here by the Interfax news agency that he recently "held long discussions on a wide range of issues, including the nuclear problem" with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

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"We believe that Iran is not seeking nuclear arms. The Iranian president has repeatedly told me about this."

Russia has come under pressure from the United States and Israel to halt the construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant in Bushehr because they fear the project may be helping Tehran develop nuclear weapons.

Iran meanwhile is being pressed by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to sign an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that would open the way for unannounced inspections of suspect facilities.

The agency has given Iran until October 31 to answer questions on its nuclear program.

Putin said he believed that Iran's nuclear program was peaceful and said he saw no reason why Tehran should be resisting compliance with the IAEA's demands.

"If it is true (that Iran has no nuclear ambitions) we see no obstacles to Iran signing an addition protocol" with the IAEA, Putin said.

"We see no obstacles to making all of the country's nuclear programs public, " he said.

The Bushehr deal is worth some 800 billion dollars to Russia but its launch has been delayed by Moscow until 2005 at the earliest.