(photo credit: Stringer Iran / Reuters)
MOSCOW - Iran's Russian-built nuclear power plant is likely to become fully operational in early August, Russian news agencies quoted a senior diplomat as saying on Monday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the plant, which Russia has built near the Persian Gulf city of Bushehr in a $1 billion deal dating back to the 1990s, is finished and can begin providing electricity soon, state-run RIA reported.
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"The project is complete, everything is tuned, and now it is a question for the engineers, when they can realistically turn on the switch," RIA quoted Ryabkov as saying.
"If this happens in the first days of August it will fully correspond with the prognoses and expectations of the Russian and Iranian sides. If it happens a few days later, there's nothing terrible about that, either," he said.
The Bushehr plant has faced repeated delays, angering Tehran and fuelling speculation that Moscow has used it as a lever in diplomacy over Iran's nuclear programme, which the United States and others say they fear is a front for weapons development.
Iran says it wants nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes and has defiantly rejected calls by the six major global powers including Russia for a halt to uranium enrichment at its Natanz nuclear complex.