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RIA Novosti

TEHRAN, April 13 (RIA Novosti) - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said he hoped for the first stage of the Bushehr nuclear power plant to enter operation before year-end 2006.

"All problems with completing the nuclear power plant have been resolved, and, hopefully, the first stage will have been commissioned before the end of 2006," Kamal Kharrazi said in the Iranian parliament on Wednesday. "During the meetings with various Russian officials, we made provision of all possible delays under the program."

According to Mr. Kharrazi, Russia "carries on working on the installation despite the fact that western specialists refused to complete it after the Islamic revolution of 1979".

The Iranian foreign minister attributed the complexity of the Bushehr program and its slipping behind schedule to the construction being launched by one country, which supplied equipment and design, and the bulk of work being completed by another country, Russia, that has its own technologies for building so sophisticated installations.

"There was also the problem with providing nuclear fuel for the power plant, but it has been resolved several weeks ago," the Iranian foreign minister said.

"With only 10% of the program implemented, Russia was the only country to agree to complete the power plant. It has done 80% of the work and completing the first stage as fast as it can," he emphasized.

During the February 27, 2005 visit of Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Alexander Rumyantsev to Iran, a protocol on amendments to the Bushehr nuclear power plant construction agreement was signed. The amendments determined the future of spent fuel of the Bushehr plant. According to Russia, Iran "is entitled to develop a uranium deposit from the economic standpoint". Nuclear fuel to stoke the first stage of the Bushehr power plant is to be supplied in August or September 2005. June will see a simulation lead batch shipped to Bushehr.

Iran's nuclear energyprogram provides for producing 7,000 megawatt at nuclear power plants by 2025. The Iranian Atomic Energy Council took the decision on that in August 2004. According to the parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission's chairman, A. Boroujeri, Iran ponders construction of 20 nuclear units. Such a large-scale program would call for heavy investment and is hardly feasible without reaching an agreement among Iran, the EU and the United States. Russia is for maintaining its cooperation with Iran in the nuclear field, with China and Japan showing interest too.

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