January 17, 2008 / 2:10 PM / 11 years ago

Israel worried as Russia sends nuclear fuel to Iran

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Israel said on Thursday that Russian deliveries of nuclear fuel to Iran might help Tehran develop nuclear weapons.

Russia last month delivered the first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran’s first nuclear power plant in Bushehr, a step which both Moscow and Washington said should convince Tehran to stop its own uranium enrichment program.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said during a visit to Russia that the fuel might help Iran develop its nuclear weapons program.

“Now Russia has started delivering nuclear fuel to Bushehr, (Iran’s) uranium enrichment may serve military goals,” Russian news agencies quoted Livni as saying.

Israel, Washington’s staunchest ally in Middle East, says Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2010 and says an Iranian nuclear weapon would threaten the existence of the Jewish state.

Israel itself is widely believed to be the only Middle East country with a nuclear arsenal.

Iran has said it will not halt its efforts to enrich uranium — fuel it says it needs for other power plants but which foreign powers fear could be used in a nuclear bomb.

The United Nations Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment. Iran says its nuclear program is purely civilian.

The U.N. sanctions have put “certain pressure” on Tehran, but their overall effect “has not been critical”, Livni said in a speech at the Russian Diplomatic Academy which news agencies quoted in Russian.

“Those taking decisions on Iran are being watched by everyone in our region, including Israel and moderate Arab regimes,” she said. “We expect the world will not allow the appearance of a nuclear Iran.”

“When I am being told about the inadmissibility of a nuclear Iran, I understand that these words should be translated into action.”

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Dominic Evans

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