TEHRAN, Iran – Iran demanded Sunday that Azerbaijan deliver a Russian shipment of nuclear equipment blocked at its border with Iran for the past three weeks.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in his weekly briefing that his country has asked the Azerbaijani ambassador in Iran to get his government "to deliver the shipment as soon as possible."
The blocked nuclear equipment "is in the framework of Iran-Russia cooperation" and there should be "no ban on it," he said about the shipment destined for a Russian-built nuclear reactor in the southern Iranian port city of Bushehr.
Azerbaijan has said it was seeking more information about the shipment due to fears that it might violate any of the three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran over its failure to halt uranium enrichment.
On Monday, Russian state-run company Atomstroiexport said that one or two trucks carrying the equipment for Iran were stopped two weeks ago at the town of Astara, on the Azerbaijani-Iranian border.
Company spokeswoman Irina Yesipova said officials were holding talks with both Azerbaijan and Iran about the incident. She said the shipment contained "heat-isolating equipment" essential to the plant's operation but that the holdup was not likely to delay the startup of the plant.
Iran is paying Russia more than $1 billion to build the light-water reactor at Bushehr.
Construction has been held up in recent months by disputes between Tehran and Moscow over payments and a schedule for shipping nuclear fuel.
Russia delivered the final shipment of uranium fuel in January, and Tehran has said it was hoping the plant would begin operations by summer.
The United States initially opposed Russia's building Bushehr, but later softened its position after Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia to ensure it does not extract plutonium from it that could be used to make atomic bombs.
Washington and Moscow have also said the Russian nuclear fuel supply means Iran no longer needs to continue its uranium enrichment program — a process that can provide fuel for a reactor or fissile material for a bomb.