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Russian-built nuke plant in Iran delayed

Dec. 22, 2008 at 1:20 PM

TEHRAN, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Technical difficulties could further delay completion of Iran's $1 billion Russian-built nuclear power plant, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

"It is likely that the deadline for the Bushehr nuclear power plant completion will be slightly delayed despite the existing construction schedule. And I am not denying this," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said.

Qashqavi said the projected delay was prompted by "technical difficulties," not in reaction to doubts raised by some Western countries about the reason for the nuclear facility, RIA Novosti reported

"We are satisfied by how Russia is implementing the project," he said.

Iran's first nuclear power plant originally was scheduled to go on line in late 2006, but the opening date has been postponed several times. Russia cited financial problems, while Iran accused Moscow of exercising caution amid suspicions by Western powers that Tehran could be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said the Bushehr plant was nearly 95 percent complete, the Russian news agency said. Qashqavi didn't provide new specifics of when the plant would start generating electricity. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said earlier the plant would go into operation in the first half of 2009.

Last week Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman for the Foreign Policy and National Security committee, said the nuclear facility should be operational no later than March 2010.

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