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Russia wades deeper into Iranian nuclear waters

Bilateral deal comes as Western negotiators work from Oman on nuclear impasse.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Russia wades deeper into Iranian nuclear waters
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano briefs reporters on nuclear negotiations with Iranian officials in Tehran, Iran, on Nov. 11, 2013. UPI File/Maryam Rahmanian | License Photo

MOSCOW, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Russian nuclear organization Rosatom said Tuesday a series of deals were signed in Moscow to expand the footprint in the Iranian nuclear sector.

The state-run Russian atomic energy corporation said an agreement was signed between the two countries to build four new power units at the Iranian nuclear facility at the existing plant at Bushehr.

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The agreement calls for "four similar power units on another site in Iran, which will be provided by the Iranian party later."

The agreement comes as representatives from the so-called P5 +1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- are working from Oman on resolving a nuclear impasse with Iran.

With a Nov. 24 deadline to reach a nuclear agreement looming, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said "the time is now" to make decisions on Iran's controversial program.

Western powers have expressed concern Iran is using its nuclear program to pursue the technology needed to manufacture a weapon, a claim the government in Tehran denies. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, said Iran has cooperated with its investigations, but the group has been so far unable to verify all of Iran's nuclear research was non-military in nature.

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"The entire construction project of the nuclear power units in Iran, including equipment and nuclear fuel supplies, will be under the IAEA safeguards and fully meet the nuclear nonproliferation regime the same way as during construction of the first power unit of Bushehr," the Russian company said in a statement.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said during a Monday meeting with reporters that issues raised by the IAEA have been addressed.

"The Iranians have confirmed that they will not continue that activity as cited in the IAEA report, so it's been resolved," she said.

Bilateral trade between Russia and Iran was $1.6 billion last year, a 31.5 percent decline from the previous year. The Kremlin attributes the drop to sanctions on Iran.

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