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Nuclear fuel delivery from Russia said in Iran

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has received a second delivery of nuclear fuel from Russia for use at its Bushehr nuclear power station, the state news agency IRNA said on Friday.

A general view shows the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, about 1,215 km (755 miles) south of Tehran, Iran February 26, 2006. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

In a move both Moscow and Washington said should persuade Tehran to shut down its disputed uranium enrichment programme, Russia delivered the first batch of about 80 tonnes of uranium fuel rods to Iran on December 17.

“The second shipment of containers with fuel for Bushehr was delivered to Iran on Friday (December 28),” Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation’s deputy head in charge of power plants, told IRNA.

“The cargo was delivered to Iran based on the planned timetable.”

Russian officials have said the final shipment of fuel to Bushehr would arrive in February next year, allowing Iran’s first nuclear power station to start operating six months later.

Iran, the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter, is embroiled in a dispute with Western powers which fear its nuclear programme could be used to build an atomic bomb. Tehran says it is designed to generate electricity.

Bushehr, which Russian engineers are building under a $1 billion (500.8 million pound) contract, has for years caused friction between Russia and Western powers pressing for restrictions on economic cooperation with Iran.

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Russia argues that Bushehr is being built under the supervision of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, ruling out any military use for the fuel or technology. Moscow says Iran gave new guarantees on this before the fuel delivery.

Iran wants to build other power plants as part of a planned network with a capacity for 20,000 megawatts by 2020 to meet the country’s growing electricity demand. Iranian officials say domestically-produced fuel is needed for other power plants.

On Wednesday, Iran said Russia had agreed to sell it an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, a deal likely to irritate the United States.

The missiles are longer-range than the TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles which Russia, in a deal criticised by the West, said earlier this year it had delivered to the Islamic Republic under a $1 billion contract.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt sensitive atomic work, but they do not ban conventional weapons sales to the country.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Andrew Dobbie