Thursday, December 01, 2005

Is Russia going soft on Iran?

From DEBKAfile November 30, 2005, 11:29 PM (GMT+02:00) :

Does the abrupt sacking of Russian nuclear energy minister signal a turnaround in Moscow`s policy on Iran’s nuclear program?

Washington and Jerusalem are disturbed by the abrupt firing of Alexander Rumyantsev as head of the Russian Agency for Atomic Energy, Rosatom, a job he held four years. Russian president Vladimir Putin offered no explanation for his replacement by a former Russian prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, who has no experience in the nuclear energy field.

DEBKAfile’s sources in Washington and Moscow report the sacked minister was trusted by the US and Israeli governments to stand firm against letting Iran have Russian technological assistance for building a nuclear weapon. Rumyantsev, who is Jewish, was also trusted by Israeli officials concerned with Iran’s nuclear activities, after Iran was obliged on his initiative to return the fuel rods from the Russian-built atomic reactor in Bushehr.

US and Israeli officials fear that Rumyantsev’s dismissal means that Putin is reviewing Moscow’s nuclear relations with Tehran and may be contemplating putting them on a less restrictive basis. So far this is only surmise.

Also Wednesday, November 30, AMAN chief, Aharon Zeevi warned: “If by the end of March 2006, the international community has still not managed to apply the brakes to Iran’s race for a nuclear bomb, it might as well give up on its diplomatic efforts and admit failure.”

DEBKAfile’s Moscow sources report that Tehran took steps in recent months to damage Rumyantsev’s reputation. Russian auditors discovered that over a long period the Iranians had tendered inflated invoices for Bushehr projects that were never executed. Moscow refunded the sums to avoid a crisis, but found it was incurring losses. Tehran then promised the minister to compensate the Russians for their losses with fresh contracts for building additional reactors in Iran. The Iranians reneged on this promise and instead negotiated the contracts with China.

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