(photo credit: Stringer Iran / Reuters)
MOSCOW - Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant will be fully operational within weeks, local news agencies quoted a senior Russian diplomat as saying on Thursday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov spoke two days after the company that built the plant, a politically charged project that faced repeated delays, said the reactor had begun operating at a low level for tests before bringing it on line.
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"The final launch of Bushehr is a matter of the coming weeks," state-run RIA quoted Ryabkov as saying.
"But this is a longstanding project and so I would refrain from naming concrete dates -- but we are already on the threshold of the final launch of the reactor."
Begun in the 1970s by a German consortium, construction of the plant was abandoned after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and has faced repeated delays since the mid-1990s, when Russia began work to complete it under a $1 billion deal with Tehran.
The United States and other Western nations for years urged Russia to abandon the project, fearing it would help Iran develop nuclear weapons. But an agreement obliging Tehran to repatriate spent nuclear fuel to Russia eased those concerns.