Iran Plans New Nuclear Facility

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON — On the heels of a breakdown in talks intended by the West to defuse the Iranian nuclear crisis, Iran is planning to build a new nuclear power facility.

Reports surfaced yesterday in Iran’s official news agencies that plans are under way to build the facility in the southwest province of Khuzestan. The Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the deputy of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed Saeedi, as saying the new 350-megawatt power plant will be constructed in the small city of Darkhovin.

The construction would mark the second power plant for the Islamic Republic, though Iran has yet to complete the rebuilding of the nuclear plant at Bushehr, which was largely destroyed in the Iran-Iraq war.

The announcement is the latest provocation from the Iranians in its nuclear standoff with the West. Last month, days after a deadline passed for Iran to respond to an offer from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany to stop enrichment activity at another facility in Natanz, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the military had tested new missiles capable of destroying “enemy ships” in the Strait of Hormuz.

Adding to the diplomatic tangle, Iranian and Russian press outlets yesterday also reported that Moscow’s top nuclear official will visit Tehran next month and intends to tour the facility at Bushehr. President Bush has encouraged Russia to assist Iran in building the Bushehr facility on the condition that no fuel is left in Iran to be reprocessed, a procedure that could be diverted to make the fuel necessary for atomic weapons.

Yesterday, Iran’s state-run TV network quoted Russia’s ambassador to Tehran, Alexander Sadovnikov, as saying: “Russia is seriously committed to completing and running Bushehr power plant in the shortest possible time.” Iran’s press interpreted that statement to mean that the plant would be completed by the end of the calendar year.

The diplomatic gestures between Iran and Russia echo reported recent moves by the Russian navy to arrange for an aircraft carrier to dock at a Syrian port.

The moves also indicate that the Russians, who have gone along with the international diplomatic pressure against Iran’s nuclear program, may be unwilling to lend support for further U.N. Security Council resolutions. Part of the concern for some American diplomats is that the Security Council is now occupied with the Russian invasion of Georgia. The Russians may hold out support for a new resolution against Iran in exchange for leniency from the United Nations on Georgia.

Regardless, Iran appears to be growing more defiant. On Saturday, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the West to back off on the nuclear file. “Some domineering countries and their worthless followers want to get their own way with the Iranian nation, but the nation, the president, and the government have stood up to them,” state television quoted him as saying after a meeting with President Ahmadinejad. The ayatollah’s public defense of the Iranian president may quell speculation in the West that a rift had emerged between them.

The New York Sun

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