Iran's Russian-built nuclear power plant is likely to become fully operational in early August, Russian news agencies quoted a senior diplomat as saying on Monday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also called for a swift resumption of talks between Iran and the six major powers seeking to ensure it does not develop nuclear weapons, the reports said.
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Ryabkov said the plant Russia has built near the Persian Gulf city of Bushehr in a $1 billion deal dating back to the 1990s is finished and can begin generating electricity soon, state-run RIA reported.
"The project is complete, everything is tuned, and now it is a question for the engineers, when they can realistically turn on the switch," RIA quoted Ryabkov as saying.
"If this happens in the first days of August it will fully correspond with the prognoses and expectations of the Russian and Iranian sides. If it happens a few days later, there's nothing terrible about that, either," he said.
The Bushehr plant has faced repeated delays, angering Tehran and fuelling speculation that Moscow has used it as a lever in diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program, which the United States and others say they fear is a front for weapons development.
The 1,000-mw plant had been due to start producing electricity early this year, but those plans were thwarted by what Russia said was a pump problem requiring the removal of of nuclear fuel that had just been loaded.
The United States and other Western nations for years urged Russia to abandon the Bushehr project, saying it could help Iran develop nuclear arms, but an agreement obliging Tehran to repatriate spent nuclear fuel to Russia eased those concerns.
Iran says it wants nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes and has rejected calls by the six major global powers including Russia to stop enriching uranium.
Ryabkov said it was unfortunate that Iran and the six nations have not set a date for new talks after meetings in December and January failed to produce any visible progress.
"This causes some concern, because the situation will not improve without dialogue," Itar-Tass quoted him as saying.
Iran's insistence on its right to enrich uranium is a major stumbling block to new talks, as Western diplomats see it as an unacceptable condition. Russia has urged Tehran to discuss the issue but has emphasized the need for talks.
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