MOSCOW (AP) - The reactor at a nuclear power plant that Russia is building in Iran will be switched on this year, Russian news agencies quoted the country's nuclear agency chief as saying Wednesday.
The nearly finished plant near the city of Bushehr is part of a nuclear program Iran says is purely peaceful, but that the United States and Israel claim is meant to develop atomic weapons.
Russia also says Iran must not acquire nuclear weapons, but it has close ties with Tehran and has repeatedly pledged to complete the more than decade-old project.
"All deadlines remain in place. The atomic power station will be switched on by the end of the year," state-run RIA-Novosti and ITAR-Tass quoted Rosatom director Sergei Kiriyenko as saying.
Officials in Russia and Iran had previously announced plans to switch the reactor on this year. But the head of the Russian company building the plant was quoted as saying last month that problems with financing and equipment supplies from other countries were throwing the timetable into doubt.
The opening of the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor, under construction for 14 years, has repeatedly been delayed by construction, supply and payment glitches that Russian officials insist have been purely technical.
But the delays have prompted speculation that Russia has used the project as a lever to prod Iran into compliance with international demands that it halt separate nuclear activity, such as uranium enrichment, that could lead to weapons development.
Russia has played a delicate game with Iran and the West, joining the U.S. and European nations in slapping U.N. Security Council sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear activity, but watering down the measures and stressing that too much pressure or punishment would be counterproductive.
The U.S. for years urged Russia to abandon the $1 billion deal to build Bushehr, citing concerns the cooperation could help Iran develop nuclear weapons. But American opposition to the plant eased when Iran agreed in 2005 to return spent fuel to Russia to ensure it can't be reprocessed into plutonium that could be used for weapons.
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