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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 23, February 1998

Russia to Press on with Iran, Cuba Nuclear Cooperation

Russia has reaffirmed its commitment to helping Cuba and Iran construct nuclear power reactors.

On 18 February, Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry (MinAtom) announced that it would take sole charge of constructing a reactor in Bushehr. According to Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov, the project has been delayed by difficulties encountered by Iran in meeting various deadlines. Mikhailov was at pains to stress that the type of light-water reactor involved cannot be used to produce weapons-grade fissile materials. Mikhailov added:

quot;Iran's technological potential doesn't allow it to produce nuclear weapons." US reaction was predictably unpersuaded. State Department spokesperson James Rubin observed on 23 February: "While we appreciate these assurances, we've made clear to them [the Russians], time and again, and will continue to do so, that we oppose any form of nuclear cooperation with Iran."

On 21 February, Cuban and Russian officials, meeting in Mexico City, announced that a reactor in Juragua, in the province of Cienfuegos, would now have to be constructed without assistance from any other States. According to Cuba's Trade Minister, Ricardo Cabrisas, both Cuba and Russia wanted other States to participate, but "this was not possible, fundamentally due to the policy of harassment by the US government."

Cabrisas added vaguely:

"There is now a discussion on completing the project between Russia and Cuba."

Reports: Russia to build Iranian nuclear plant, United Press International, 18 February; Russia to cut nuclear program, Associated Press, 18 February; Russia, Cuba to build nuclear plant, Associated Press, 21 February; US upset with new Russia-Iran deal, United Press International, 23 February.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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