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Iran Aims For 2009 Launch Of Nuclear Plant

The Bushehr nuclear power plant
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran is aiming to commission its first nuclear power plant in 2009 after years of delays, the official IRNA news agency has reported.

Russia has already delivered nuclear fuel under a $1 billion contract to build the Bushehr plant on the Gulf coast in southwest Iran. But the start-up timetable has frequently been put back because of issues such as a row over payments.

Russia agreed to build the plant in 1995 on the site of an earlier project begun in the 1970s by German firm Siemens. The Siemens' project was disrupted by Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

"The commissioning stage of Bushehr nuclear power station has begun and we are hopeful the power station will be commissioned in 2009 as per the agreement we have had with the Russian party," the spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohsen Delaviz, was quoted a saying.

He did not give a more precise date.

"There is a good environment prevailing in our relations with the Russians and we are hoping they will honor their commitments," he added.

Atomstroyexport, the Russian firm building the plant, said in September the plant was nearing completion and that it would start "technological work" in December 2008 to February 2009 that would put the plant on an "irreversible final" course.

Analysts say Russia has used Bushehr as a lever in relations with Tehran. It had previously said it expected the plant to start up some time this year.

Iran is at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear program that Tehran says has only civilian aims but which the United States and its allies say is a smokescreen for building atomic weapons.