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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran to test Bushehr nuclear plant on Wednesday - official

RIA Novosti

23/02/2009 12:11 TEHRAN, February 23 (RIA Novosti) - Iran will start up its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant for a test on February 25, a spokesman for the country's Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) said, according to Iranian media reports.

"The Bushehr NPP will be started up for a test on Wednesday in the presence of [Russia's state nuclear corporation] Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko and AEO head Gholam Reza Aghazadeh," Mohsen Delaviz said.

Rosatom said last week Kiriyenko would visit the Islamic Republic on February 25 to discuss construction of the $1 billion Bushehr facility.

The plant, Russia undertook to finish under a 1998 contract, was originally scheduled go on line at the end of 2006, but the date has been pushed back several times. Russia has cited financial problems for the delay, but it has been suggested Moscow was stalling due to Western suspicions that Tehran could be seeking nuclear weapons.

The Islamic Republic insists it needs its nuclear program to generate energy for civilian purposes.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said earlier the Bushehr plant would go on stream in the first half of 2009. A Russian deputy foreign minister said last Friday the plant would be commissioned according to the schedule agreed on with Tehran.

In December 2007 - January 2008, Russia supplied nuclear fuel for the plant under control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog. Iran has agreed to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia.

Russia, along with China, has been behind the watering down of UN Security Council sanctions proposed by the United States and other Western countries. The two countries have advocated diplomacy in addressing the Iran nuclear issue.

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