Iran, Russia to sign nuclear plants deal Tuesday

AFP , Sunday 9 Nov 2014

The head of Iran's atomic energy agency will travel to Russia Tuesday to sign a construction deal for two nuclear power plants on Iran's southern Gulf shores, media reported.

Ali Akbar Salehi's visit will cap months of negotiations between Iran and Russia, and comes as the Islamic republic faces a November 24 deadline for a long-term nuclear agreement with world powers.

"I am going to Moscow to sign an agreement for the construction of new nuclear power plants," Salehi was quoted as saying on Sunday by Iran's official IRNA news agency.

It quoted Tehran's ambassador to Moscow, Mehdi Sanaei, as saying on Facebook that the visit would take place on Tuesday.

Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, also quoted by IRNA, said Russia and Iran are set to "finalise and sign the agreement for the construction of two nuclear plants".

Under a provisional agreement, Russia will build two 1,000-megawatt plants next to Iran's sole existing plant in the southern Gulf port city of Bushehr.

The Bushehr plant, which also produces 1,000 megawatts, was built by Russia after being delayed for years and officially handed over in September 2013.

Iran plans to build 20 more plants in the future, including four in Bushehr alone, to decrease its dependency on oil and gas.

Russia and Iran, which are both targeted by international sanctions, signed a number of trade and investment deals in September to help boost their economies.

One of the most important protocols involves energy, and would include creating a power network linking the two countries, for which Iran is desperate for investment.

Russia would also build 10 new conventional electrical power plants in Iran.

Iran is rich in oil and gas, but has long sought to diversify its energy sources, and its drive for nuclear power has complicated relations with the West.

Tehran denies claims by the West and Israel that it is seeking nuclear weapons and insists that it is pursuing atomic energy purely for peaceful purposes.

Iran has been locked in thorny nuclear talks with six world powers, including the United States and Russia, with pressure mounting ahead of a November 24 deadline for a lasting deal to be clinched.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Gulf sultanate of Oman to try to narrow differences ahead of the deadline.

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