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Tehran, Moscow reach initial understanding to accelerate joint projects, says Iran nuclear chief

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Mohammad Eslami (R) meets with Director General of Russia’s Rosatom Alexey Likhachev in Moscow on September 28, 2021. (Photo by Fars news agency)

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) says Tehran and Moscow have reached preliminary understanding on a framework to accelerate joint nuclear projects.

“We agreed to establish different mechanisms in the new negotiations with the aim of speeding things up,” Mohammad Eslami told reporters following a meeting with Alexey Likhachev, the director general of Russia’s Rosatom.

“In the meeting, initial understanding was reached to carry out our nuclear projects and programs faster and with a clear picture,” Eslami said.

The joint projects, he said, include cooperation on the use of radiation in medicine and building new nuclear power plants in Iran, particularly utilization of Bushehr's phase one which is already operational and the development of its second and third phases.

“We discussed and agreed with the Russian side on these issues as well as on our commitments,” he said.

His visit to Moscow came after unconfirmed reports that the Russians had slowed down work at new projects in Iran over unpaid funds.   

Eslami said the Iranian side agreed to fulfill its obligations with regard to timely payment of funds in order to put an end to a 22-month delay which, he said, has occurred so far in the implementation of the projects.

Russia has been involved in Iran’s nuclear power generation projects more than any other country. The two sides signed a number of documents in November 2014 for the construction of up to eight new nuclear power plants and the expansion of cooperation in the field of peaceful use of atomic energy.

In November 2017, Iran began building two more nuclear reactors in a joint project with Russia’s Rosatom energy firm in Bushehr.

The Islamic Republic's aim is to build 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power capacity to meet its growing electricity demand and save more oil for exports.

In their meeting, Eslami and Likhachev described bilateral relations as strategic, saying Iran and Russia cooperate in many fields, according to a readout of the meeting published by the AEOI.

AEOI deputy chief and spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Kazem Jalali and some of the high-ranking officials of the AEOI also attended the meeting on Iran’s side.

“Cooperation between the two countries in the field of peaceful nuclear activities, including the construction and development of nuclear power plants, is progressing well, and this cooperation should be expanded further,” Eslami said during the meeting.

The top Iranian official expressed hope that the two sides would strengthen and accelerate the process of cooperation through regular consultations.

Likhachev also welcomed deepening of bilateral relations, especially in the field of peaceful nuclear energy.

The Tuesday meeting marked Eslami’s second meeting with Likhachev in less than a month. Last week, the two nuclear chiefs met on the sidelines of the 65th regular session of the IAEA General Conference in Vienna.

The AEOI chief described that meeting as “constructive” and “amicable” and highlighted the importance of nuclear electricity production for Iran.

He said he would thoroughly discuss ways to cooperate and accelerate progress at the new units of Iran’s Bushehr power plant in his visit to Russia.

Eslami arrived in Moscow earlier on Tuesday to meet with Likhachev and some of Russia’s senior officials.

Upon his arrival in Moscow, he dismissed Washington’s call on Tehran to grant access to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors to one of its nuclear sites.

Eslami said the “countries that did not condemn terrorist acts against Iran’s nuclear site are not qualified to comment on inspections there.”

At issue was a Sunday IAEA report that said while Iran had granted access to its nuclear sites as agreed on September 12, it had prevented IAEA inspectors from visiting a workshop at the TESA Karaj complex, after it was targeted in a sabotage act in June in which one of four IAEA cameras was destroyed.

Eslami and Kamalvandi, in addition to Iran’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Kazem Gharibabadi, strongly criticized the IAEA for not condemning the “terrorist attack” at the TESA Karaj complex.

Iran has blamed Israel for the attack targeting the TESA Karaj complex as well as for another attack at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in April.

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