MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russia could build a
second reactor at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant in exchange for
Iranian oil, the Iranian ambassador to Moscow said in remarks published
Russia could also supply Iran with trucks, railroad tracks,
mini-refineries or other goods to pay for the oil, ambassador Mehdi
Sanaei told the daily Kommersant, under a deal Reuters revealed was
being negotiated last month.
Reuters reported Iran and Russia were negotiating to swap up to
500,000 barrels of oil per day for goods in the deal that would
undermine Western efforts to maintain economic pressure on Tehran
while global powers seek to curb its nuclear program.
In an interview published a day before the six powers including
Russia resume talks with Tehran on a nuclear deal, Sanaei confirmed
Russia and Iran were discussing supplies of "a few hundred thousand
barrels per day".
"Iran could use some of the proceeds (to pay for) the construction
by Russia companies of a second unit at the nuclear power plant in
Bushehr," he said. Russia built the first reactor at Bushehr, Iran's
sole nuclear power plant.
Sanaei said it was possible the oil deal, and a broad memorandum on
economic cooperation, could be signed before August. Russian Economy
Minister Alexei Ulyukayev is to visit Iran in April for talks on
Asked what Russia could supply in exchange for the oil, Sanaei said
the sides were discussing a number of possibilities including the
construction of small oil refineries, Russian investment in gas
fields and supplies of electricity.
TRUCKS, TRACKS, GRAIN
In addition to the possibility of Russia building a second reactor
at Bushehr, he said Tehran was interested in supplies of heavy
trucks or their assembly in Iran, and other items.
"Iran is interested in buying a huge amount of railroad tracks from
Russia, as well as Russian involvement in the electrification of its
railways. We are also interested in Russian grain."
Western nations fear an oil-swap deal would badly hurt efforts to
forge a permanent agreement ensuring Iran's nuclear program could
not be used to make weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. An
interim deal was reached in January.
A top U.S. official said this month she believed the oil-for-goods
swap would not go ahead in the near future after the United States
warned both sides it would make reaching a nuclear agreement "more
difficult if not impossible".
Sanaei dismissed the U.S. concerns and said Russia should do the
same, warning that European nations have sent business delegations
to Iran and that Moscow risked losing lucrative opportunities if it
failed to act fast.
"Our Russian friends, who have stood by us at difficult moments,
should have advantages on the Iranian market ... But Russian
companies must hurry to get into their niche in our market and not
hesitate out of fear of Western sanctions," he said.
Russia approved four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions
against Iran over its nuclear program but has sharply criticized
additional measures imposed by the United States and European Union,
calling them counterproductive.
The United States for years urged Russia to scrap its contract to
build Bushehr, saying the project could help Tehran develop nuclear
weapons capability. However, a deal requiring Iran to return spent
fuel to Russia greatly eased those concerns.