US President George W. Bush said Sunday that Russia had agreed to international inspectors visiting a nuclear plant under construction in southern Iran to settle US fears over Moscow's backing for the project.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said during talks with Bush last week that Moscow would not object to inspectors visiting the Bushehr plant, which Washington fears could lead to Iran developing a military nuclear capability.
Putin "is willing to allow for international inspection to determine whether that's true or not," Bush told a press conference in Paris with President Jacques Chirac on his first day of an official visit to France.
"We had a very frank discussion about the potential -- or the development of -- a nuclear power plant that he is convinced will not lead to the spread of technologies that will enable Iran to develop weapons of mass destruction," Bush said.
"I think it's important to understand that president Putin understands that an Iran that's got the capacity to launch a missile is dangerous for him and his country. He understands that," Bush said.
A senior US official added after the press conference that Bush and Putin "are discussing ways ahead to increase everyone's confidence, and to address what both presidents agree... is a real potential problem."
"Both presidents agreed (Iran obtaining weapons of mass destruction) would be a very bad thing," he added.
Bush and Putin remained at odds during a Friday meeting in Moscow over the issue of Russia's help in constructing the nuclear plant at Bushehr.
Putin, who signed a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty with Bush Friday, assured his counterpart that his country's nuclear cooperation with Iran would not undermine the non-proliferation process and was purely economic in nature.
Iran meanwhile saluted Putin for defending Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran during his four-day summit with Bush.
"President Putin's position on Iran is in line with the national interests of Russia", Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said, quoted by state radio.
"Iran-Russian cooperation in nuclear technology is as clear and transparent as crystal. It is done with the control and supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it is Putin's right to defend this cooperation", he added.
Kharazi called US accusations that Iran wants to build nuclear weapons "baseless" and resulted from "US foreign policy on the Middle East being dictated by Israel".
Moscow signed an 800 million dollar contract with Tehran in 1993 agreeing to help it build a nuclear power station that is expected to come into operation in September 2003.
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Iran-Russian Technology Programs Under Growing Strain
Tehran (AFP) Feb 19, 2002
Iran canceled a visit to Russia by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi due to start Tuesday, with both sides giving different reasons, in a setback for ties with Moscow at a time when Tehran is under severe pressure from Washington.
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