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Clinton Downplays Iran Nuclear Start-Up

An interior view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran on October 26, when Tehran said fuel was being loaded into the reactor core.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reiterated that the United States has no problem with Iran's Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

Clinton said Washington's problem is with Iran's "facilities at places like Natanz and their secret facility at Qom and other places" where U.S. officials believe Iran is conducting a secret nuclear weapons program.

Clinton was speaking hours after Iran announced that it has began injecting fuel into the core of the nuclear reactor in the southern port city of Bushehr.

"I heard some of the news coverage that, you know, 'Oh my goodness, the Iranians are starting their reactor.' That is not the issue," Clinton said. "They are entitled to peaceful civilian nuclear power. They are not entitled to nuclear weapons. There's two different processes, and so I'm glad you asked the question because I think it's important to distinguish that."

The Bushehr plant was launched in August after years of delays. Iran has said the 1,000-megawatt plant could start producing energy in early 2011.

Russia is supplying the enriched uranium for the reactor and taking away the spent fuel, amid concerns that Iran's own uranium enrichment program could be used for a nuclear weapon. The Iranian government denies any intention of making a nuclear bomb.

Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and what UN nuclear inspectors described in February as "past or current undisclosed activities" have led to four rounds of UN sanctions.

On October 26, Director-General Yukiya Amano said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wants Iran "to take concrete steps" toward open talks about its nuclear program.

compiled from agency reports