Russia vows quick completion of Iran atom plant

Sun Nov 29, 2009 5:03pm EST
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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Russia's energy minister pledged Sunday a quick completion of Iran's first nuclear power station, two weeks after announcing the latest delay, but refrained from giving a specific time for its launch.

The comment from Sergei Shmatko came after talks with Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi and as Iran's government announced plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants, in a major expansion of its disputed nuclear program.

In mid-November, Shmatko said that technical issues would prevent engineers from starting up the reactor at Bushehr -- being built by Russian state contractor Atomstroyexport -- by the end of the year as previously planned.

Moscow, which is under Western pressure to distance itself from Tehran over its nuclear activities, stressed at the time that politics had nothing to do with the delay.

Russia's nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko said in February that the Bushehr launch was scheduled for 2009.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to build nuclear bombs. Iran, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, denies this and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Sunday, Shmatko declined to comment on Iran's plan to build 10 new plants and was upbeat on Bushehr which he said met all requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"We have done our best to complete the project. Now we are testing the system in full compliance with security requirements of IAEA. I'm surprised how well the tests are going," he said.

When pressed on a specific time for the start he said: "I don't want to guess. What if we have a technical problem and will need a week to fix it?"   Continued...