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. Iran, Russia still talking on nuclear plant completion
TEHRAN, Sept 9 (AFP) Sep 09, 2007
Iran on Sunday said it was still holding discussions with Russia to agree a date for the completion of its first nuclear power plant, a much delayed project being built by Russian engineers.

"Discussions are continuing about Bushehr (nuclear power plant) and until these are concluded we cannot say exactly when the power station will be completed," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.

Russia started work on the plant in the southern city of Bushehr in 1995 but completion has been delayed amid Russian complaints Iran is not paying on time and Iranian accusations the United States wants to derail the whole project.

The plant is a cornerstone of Iran's controversial nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is solely aimed at providing electricity for a growing population but the United States says masks an atomic weapons drive.

Despite the problems, Iran is now insisting that Russia is committed to finishing the plant and providing the required nuclear fuel as outlined in previous agreements.

"We need to wait for the end of negotiations but the important thing is the willingness of the Russians to finish the power station," Hosseini added.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said that the talks were proceeding on the level of "experts".

"There is agreement at the level of experts, including over the sending of nuclear fuel, and this still has to be finanlised by the leaders of the two countries," he said in an interview with state television.

"I think that if this is signed and finalised in the next six months, much will be done. If it is achieved in the next six months, it is a good thing," he added.

Russian officials have said in recent days that talks will continue until the problems that have appeared over the past six months are resolved and a timetable has still not been fixed for the completion of the plant.

According to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, the issue of the Bushehr plant will be discussed during an upcoming visit to Tehran by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The presidents of the five countries bordering on the Caspian Sea -- Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan -- are to meet in Tehran on October 16, Iranian officials have said.

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