Iranian nuclear site (illustrative)
Iranian nuclear site (illustrative)Israel news photo: (file)

Russia announced Wednesday that the Iranian nuclear reactor it is helping to build is set to launch its operations this August. Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's state nuclear corporation, said the reactor currently being completed at Bushehr is on schedule.

Kiriyenko told reporters during a visit to Argentina, “Bushehr doesn't threaten the regime of nonproliferation in any way. No one has any concerns about Bushehr.”

The announcement comes in the wake of the 40-nation nuclear summit just hosted by the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.

Cooperation - Not With Russia

Ellen Tauscher, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, testified Wednesday before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that President Barack Obama had “gained cooperation from Ukraine, Chile, Canada and others to help lock down this dangerous material.”

She carefully avoided any statement specifying that Russia would cooperate in U.S. efforts to contain Iranian nuclear development activities, focusing instead on Obama's diplomatic successes.

The U.S., she said, had just signed a new START Treaty in Prague, which she said would enable Washington and Russia to “safely reduce our nuclear forces because the threat environment has changed. Today's most pressing nuclear threats come from terrorists and additional countries seeking nuclear weapons."

The nuclear summit was intended to seek commitments from participants to “take steps to secure vulnerable nuclear materials and prevent nuclear smuggling,” Tauscher said, “in order to stop terrorists or criminal organizations from acquiring these dangerous materials.

“We must deny highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium to terrorist groups because they would surely use the material to develop a weapon and use the weapon itself,” she added.

Tauscher avoided mentioning Iran's current activities in precisely this area, an uncomfortable reality made even less palatable by the fact that the U.S. has so far failed to convince the other members of the United Nations Security Council to agree to impose harsher sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“We are working to build international consensus for steps that will convince Iran's leaders to change course,” she told the committee, “including new UN Security Council sanctions that will further clarify their choice of upholding their NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) and safeguards obligations or facing increasing isolation and painful consequences.”

Netanyahu and Medvedev

In February, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on the issue. Netanyahu's meeting came on the heels of an announcement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Natanz nuclear plant had begun to enrich uranium up to 20 percent. Netanyahu told Medvedev, "What is needed now are very tough sanctions that can influence this regime and severe sanctions that will considerably and convincingly harm the import and export of oil."

Medevedev was polite but noncommittal in his response, and Russia later announced that it did not believe it necessary to impose such harsh restrictions on Iran at the present time.