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Russia's Space Agency Chief Hails Easing of INA Restrictions by U.S.

Russia's Federal SpaceAgency chief Anatoly Perminov said in a statement that the U.S. actionrepresented a "breakthrough in U.S.-Russian space cooperation.''

The U.S. Congress hasrecently amended the Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA) of2000 that penalized Russia and other countries that sell unconventional weaponsand missile technology to Iran, allowing NASA to pay the Russians for servicesnecessary to operate the station until 2012.

Russia's Soyuz crewcapsules and unmanned Progress cargo ships have been the ISS' lifeline sincethe U.S. space shuttle Columbiadisaster in 2003. NASA officials have warned that unless exemptions aremade for NASA's work with Russia it was possible that no U.S. astronauts wouldbe flying on the next Soyuz mission in April.

Perminov said that liftingof the ban "creates good preconditions for further development of spacecooperation and strengthening of ties between Russia's Federal Space Agency andNASA.''

The U.S. shuttle programwas suspended for more than two years; the shuttle Discovery flew to the ISS inJuly, but problems with its insulation raised doubts about when the nextshuttle would go into space.

When the current spacestation's crewof Russian Valery Tokarev and U.S. astronaut William McArthur blasted off in aRussian rocket last month, Russian space officials warned that they could notguarantee McArthur's return next spring unless NASA paid for the flight.

Russia is building anUS$800 million (euro684million) nuclear power plant in Iran despite U.Sobjections that this could help Tehran build atomic bombs. Several Russiancompanies have also been accused by the U.S. administration of leaking missiletechnologies to Tehran.

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