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Iran in talks with Russia to build N-power plant

Updated August 26, 2018

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TEHRAN: Iran has resu­med talks with Russia to build a new nuclear power plant capable of generating up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity, energy minister Reza Ardakanian said on Saturday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

The Islamic Republic currently has the capacity to produce 1,000MW of nuclear electricity, it reported.

Iran already runs one Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr, its first. Russia signed a deal with Iran in 2014 to build up to eight more reactors in the country.

The United States in May pulled out of a deal between Tehran and major powers to limit Iran’s nuclear plans, and Washington imposed new sanctions on Tehran in August.

Meanwhile, Iranian Pre­sident Hassan Rouhani called for unity in the face of criticism from all sides of his handling of an economic crisis and tensions with the US.

“Now is not the time to unload our burdens on to somebody else’s shoulders. We must help each other,” Mr Rouhani said in a televised speech at the shrine of the late revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini.

“The country’s problems and resisting foreigners’ conspiracies is the responsibility of every one of us.” With rapidly rising food prices, a dramatic currency collapse and the reimposition of US sanctions after it abandoned the nuclear deal, many Iranians are in a bleak mood.

Much of his electoral base among reform-minded urbanites is said to have lost faith in him, while working-class areas have seen months of sporadic strikes and protests that have occasionally turned violent.

Some of the most virulent criticism has come from the hardline religious establishment who long opposed Mr Rouhani’s efforts to rebuild ties with the West.

On Aug 16, an image went viral of a protest by seminary students in the shrine city of Qom, at which placards issued strong warnings to Mr Rouhani.

Mr Rouhani sought to play down the differences, saying: “The clerical, religious institutions and the government are alongside each other.” But he added a typically cryptic warning: “No one can walk into the sea and not expect to get his feet wet.”

Hardliners have been blamed for stoking economic protests that have sometimes turned against the system as a whole.

Mr Rouhani still has the support of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who says he must remain in power to avoid further disorder.

But Mr Khamenei has also blamed government mismanagement, rather than foreign hostility, for the current crisis.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2018