Iran has started construction of a domestically built nuclear power plant, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Iran's first atomic power station is being built by Russians but is not yet complete. Iran, embroiled in a row with the West over its nuclear program, has previously said it planned to build power stations on its own.
"At the demand of the president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), the construction of the first domestic nuclear power plant with capacity of 360 MW has started," Atomic Energy Organization chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh was quoted by ISNA news agency as saying. He did not give further details.
"The enemies know they cannot weaken the will of our people to obtain peaceful nuclear energy and that is why they make it look like there are different opinions in the country," he said.
“This is definitely one of the most important times in the history of this people,” Aghazadeh added.
'We must not settle for these promises'
Ahmadinejad has faced criticism by some of his more moderate opponents for making anti-Western speeches, which the critics say have exacerbated Iran's standoff with the West.
Iran's dispute with Western nations focuses on its determination to enrich uranium, a process which Tehran says will only be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. The West says it is part of a covert plan to build atomic bombs.
“These days, the west is willing to allow us to enrich uranium, and to supply the best plants and technology in order to mend the relationship with us, but we must not settle for these promises,” Aghazadeh said.
Russia has said it will delay starting up Iran's first nuclear power station because Iran is behind in payments, although Tehran denies payment delays.
The 1,000 MW plant being built at the port of Bushehr in southwest of Iran had been due to start up in September. The first fuel supplies from Russia for the plant were due to be delivered this month.
The United States and Israel fear Iran may use the plant to develop nuclear weapons.
However, Russia claims it would not be possible, because according to the agreement between the two countries, Iran would have to return used fuel to Russia, and UN inspectors would supervise the plant.
Iran, the world's fourth biggest oil producer, says it wants to build a network of nuclear power stations to prepare for the day when its oil and gas reserves run out and to maximize exports in the meantime.
Reuters contributed to this article