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Issue Number 61, dated 8/9/99

Progress reported on U.S.-Russia nuclear talks (Serial6107 - Excerpts)


Prime Minister Stepashin was able to report some progress to VicePresident Gore during their July 28 meeting in the contentious areaof Russia's nuclear transfers to Iran, Russian sources told The IranBrief. But Stepashin's assurances were not enough to get the U.S. tolift sanctions against two nuclear institutes, NKIET and Mendelayev,that were quietly imposed last November and announced by the WhiteHouse on Jan. 12. ("Nuclear Exchanges Intensify, TIB 2/8/99).

The U.S. imposed sanctions on the two firms for providingassistance and technology to Iran that could be useful to itsclandestine nuclear weapons program, which includes a requirement toacquire the means to produce weapons grade nuclear fuel, eitherthrough enrichment of uranium or through the reprocessing of spentreactor fuel.

According to the Russian side, the U.S. had promised to liftsanctions against Mendeleyev in May, but was not convinced by Russianassurances that the Iranians studying nuclear physics at theMoscow-based institute had been thoroughly isolated from programs ofuse to developing weapons-grade fuel. "Stepashin left empty-handed,"the Russian sources said.

The D. Mendeleyev Institute of Chemical Technology specializes indesigning graphite materials for plutonium production reactors.Civilian power plant operators might have a requirement to learn howto handle graphite rods used in reactor operation, but the U.S.feared they could also gain access to design information that wouldadvance Iran's program to obtain weapons material.

On August 5, the head of Russia's National Security Council,Vladimir Putin, had a thirty-minute telephone conference with hisU.S. counterpart Sandy Berger to discuss the Russian governmentinvestigation of NKIET, the sources said.

Putin, who doubles as the head of the domestic spy agency, FSB, isrumored in Moscow to be the next in line to become Russian PrimeMinister, perhaps as early as late August or early September.President Yeltsin is said to be upset with Stepashin because he hasfailed to close down judicial investigations into the financialaffairs of his family and close confidants, including Russian magnateBoris Berezovsky.

Putin told Berger that NKIET's parent organization, the Ministryof Atomic Energy, MINATOM, had fired

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