- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

From combined dispatches

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell met Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov yesterday and voiced concern about a nuclear power plant under construction in Iran.

On a day of diplomatic give and take, Mr. Powell also met with the foreign ministers of China and South Korea, after starting in the morning with an "informal chat" with North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun.

Last week Russia compounded U.S. concerns by announcing that it was planning a dramatic expansion of nuclear power plants in Iran.

Russian cooperation with Iran has long been a sore point with Washington, and the power plant under construction in the Persian Gulf port city of Bushehr is an especially sensitive issue.

A senior U.S. official who briefed reporters said Mr. Ivanov, responding to Mr. Powell's concerns, promised to look into the situation. Moscow has maintained the plant would not contribute to Iran's nuclear weapons development.

The senior official dismissed a suggestion in The Washington Post that the administration may launch a pre-emptive attack against the plant to stop it from becoming operational. The project is expected to be completed in two or three years.

In his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, Mr. Powell reviewed plans for an October summit meeting between President Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Crawford, Texas.

The senior official suggested there was no easing of disagreements over Taiwan, with Mr. Powell cautioning that Chinese attempts to increase its ability to attack Taiwan would only lead to increased U.S. military transfers to Taiwan.

Mr. Powell and Mr. Tang also discussed U.S. concerns about perceived Chinese violations of a November 2000 U.S.-Chinese arms control agreement under which Beijing promised to tighten export controls. China insists it is in compliance with the agreement.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, two top U.S. officials met with Russia's atomic energy minister yesterday to discuss nuclear proliferation issues amid tension over the Iran plan.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who handles arms-control issues, met with Nuclear Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, the U.S. Embassy said.

The visits were planned long ago, but the Americans arrived just days after the Russian government announced a 10-year program for cooperation with Iran that includes plans to build five nuclear reactors there in addition to the one in Bushehr.

Neither Mr. Bolton nor Mr. Abraham made public comments in Moscow yesterday. A news conference to announce the release of a report by a U.S.-Russian committee exploring ways to cooperate on the development of proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel technology was canceled. The U.S. Embassy cited a change in Mr. Abraham's itinerary as the reason.

A Russian official said Moscow demanded to see firm proof from Washington that Iran was developing nuclear weapons with Russia's help.

In Washington on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the U.S. officials would convey concerns about Russia-Iran cooperation while in Moscow.

"We've consistently urged Russia to cease all nuclear cooperation with Iran," Mr. Reeker said. "Contributing to Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions would be counterproductive to Russia's broader strategic interests."

A Russian expert on Iran, Radzhab Safarov, said he expected portions of the program to be watered down before final approval, in part because of pressure from the West and pro-Western officials in Russia.

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