Iran FM says Bushehr nuclear plant will be online 'soon'

Salehi does not give date for launch; Russian FM Lavrov says he hopes Iranian talks with West will resume on basis of Russian proposal.

By REUTERS
August 17, 2011 12:43
2 minute read.
Iranian workers stand in front of Bushehr.

bushehr_311 reuters. (photo credit: Stringer Iran / Reuters)

MOSCOW - Iran's foreign minister said on Wednesday his country's Russian-built nuclear power plant at Bushehr would be switched on soon after years of delays, but gave no date.

Ali Akbar Salehi spoke at the start of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov which were expected to focus on the latest Russian proposal to resolve global tension over Tehran's nuclear program.

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"The launch of the Bushehr atomic power plant will take place soon," Salehi said through an interpreter.

Lavrov said he hoped that talks between global powers and Iran on Iran's nuclear program would resume soon on the basis of a Russian proposal.

There were no immediate details on Moscow's proposal, but Salehi praised the document for its "step-by-step" approach to the dispute.

Lavrov said the Bushehr nuclear plant would start operations very soon and that the date was being discussed agreed with Iran.

Russia agreed to construct the plant, Iran's first, in the southwest of the country in the 1990s. Repeated delays have irritated Iran and fueled speculation that Moscow is using the project as a lever in diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program.

A senior Russian diplomat said this year the plant was likely to become fully operational by early August.

Russia, which is pressing its proposal to revive negotiations with Iran, is a partner of the West and China in a six-nation group seeking to ensure Tehran does not acquire nuclear weapons.

Moscow is calling for a phased process in which Iran would take concrete steps to ease concerns about its nuclear program and win concessions, such as the gradual easing of sanctions, in return.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomed the proposal after talks with Russia's Security Council secretary in Tehran on Tuesday. But Iranian officials gave no indication that they were prepared to address what Western powers see as the crucial concern, Iran's uranium enrichment activities.

"We have the impression that there is an understanding of the need to strengthen trust and seek a way to resolve the questions of Iran's nuclear program," Lavrov told Salehi.

Salehi praised the Russian proposal in vague terms at the start of the meeting with Lavrov.

The United States has welcomed Russia's efforts to make progress after talks with Iran ended without result in January, but Western nations have made little specific comment on Russia's "step-by-step" proposal.

A senior Russian diplomat told Reuters on Wednesday that the others powers in the group seeking a solution to the nuclear dispute with Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and China, supported the proposal in general, but there were differences over details and specific steps.

The diplomat declined to give details of the Russian proposal.

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