No political obstacles to Iran atom plant: Russia

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MOSCOW, Sep 18 (Reuters) Russia's nuclear chief said today there were no political constraints to building Iran's first nuclear power station in a signal it could be finished if payment hitches are solved, local media reported.

Russia is helping to build the Bushehr nuclear power plant on the Gulf but has repeatedly put back the start-up date citing Iranian payment delays. Tehran denies any payment problems.

''The Bushehr atomic power plant does not present any threat to the non-proliferation regime,'' Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russian state atomic energy agency Rosatom, said in Vienna, RIA news agency reported.

''There are no political constraints to the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and should be none,'' he said.

Kiriyenko discussed the completion of the plant at a meeting with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, yesterday.

''I am satisfied with the results of the meeting,'' Kiriyenko said.

Russian officials insist that millions of US dollars in missed payments have delayed the plant.

But some analysts say Russia is stalling because it does not fully trust Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and fears an international backlash if it delivers nuclear fuel to Bushehr.

Under current Russian forecasts, the reactor at the plant could be started up in 2008. Nuclear fuel would have to arrive at the plant six months before the reactor could be started up, Russian officials say.

REUTERS SR BD2333

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