Everything possible has been done to complete the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, the Russian energy minister said Sunday.
"The Bushehr plant is a symbol of cooperation between Russia and Iran. We have done everything possible to complete the project," Sergei Shmatko told journalists after talks with Iranian officials shortly before a meeting of an intergovernmental commission in Tehran.
Shmatko said in mid-November that the launch of Bushehr in southern Iran may not take place before the end of this year, as earlier planned. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said Tuesday the launch will take place by the end of March 2010.
The construction of the plant was started in 1975 by German companies. However, the firms stopped work after a U.S. embargo was imposed on high-technology supplies to Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. embassy siege in Tehran.
Russia signed a contract with Iran in February 1998 to complete the plant.
The launch date has been postponed many times over financial and technical reasons. Iran has claimed that Russia was reluctant to finish the facility due to UN sanctions, and concerns voiced by world powers that the plant is part of a covert nuclear weapons program.
Iran has been under international pressure to halt uranium enrichment, used in both electricity generation and weapons production. Tehran has repeatedly rejected the demand, insisting it is pursuing a purely civilian program.
Iran's state television reported Sunday that the Islamic republic plans to build ten new uranium enrichment facilities. It said Iran's government instructed the country's nuclear organization to start building five new plants and outline locations for another five within two months.
TEHRAN, November 29 (RIA Novosti)