Moscow: Iran`s ambassador to Moscow on Monday said Russia could build the Islamic republic a second nuclear power reactor under a proposed oil-for-goods swap that has raised grave concern in Washington.
Ambassador Mehdi Sanaei said the two close trading partners have been negotiating Iran`s delivery of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day since a meeting at a regional summit in September between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart Hassan Rouhani.
Russian officials have neither confirmed nor denied the discussions while stressing that they would not break existing UN sanctions on the Islamic state.
But Washington and the European Union have imposed their own restrictions over Tehran`s disputed nuclear programme that also penalise countries and companies dealing in certain areas with Iran.
The White House has raised "serious concern" about the potential deal -- which one Russian report said involved the delivery of 500,000 barrels of crude per day -- because it would boost Iran`s oil exports by more than 50 per cent.
Iran`s crude shipments are believed to have shrunk under the impact of the unilateral Western sanctions to less than one million barrels per day from the 2.5-million-barrel figure they reached in late 2011.
Sanaei said Iran was interested in acquiring Russian heavy trucks and railroad equipment in exchange for the oil deliveries.
"A part of the funds (from the oil sales) could also go toward the construction by Russian companies of a second nuclear reactor at Bushehr," Sanaei told Kommersant.
Russia completed the construction of the Islamic republic`s sole nuclear power plant once the project was dropped by Germany`s industrial giant Siemens following Iran`s 1979 revolution.
The plant`s single reactor produces 1,000 megawatts of electricity -- a small fraction of what the oil-rich country says it wants to produce from nuclear power.
Tehran has fervently rejected Western and Israeli suspicions that its nuclear programme is masking a covert weapons drive.
Sanaei`s confirmation of the behind-the-scenes negotiations comes a day before world powers and Iran resume negotiations in Vienna aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord on Tehran`s nuclear drive.
Iran has agreed to freeze some nuclear activities for six months under a landmark interim agreement sealed last November.
It won modest sanctions relief in return that also included a promise by Western powers not to impose new restrictions on its hard-hit economy.