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Iran Opens 2 Plants at Bushehr Nuclear Reactor

Iran inaugurated two minor plants at its Bushehr nuclear reactor on Tuesday, showing it is determined to get the power plant running despite a delay caused by a dispute with Russia.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that First Vice President Parviz Davoodi performed the ceremonial launch of a 400-kilowatt power station at Bushehr and a water purification and cooling system.

"This indicates our determination to build and improve power plants," the report quoted Davoodi as saying. "The plant enjoys high-standard safety measures and is ready to receive fuel."

Iran's first nuclear power plant, Bushehr was due to come on stream in September, but early last month Russia announced that the final elements of its construction was being delayed because Iran had fallen behind on payment. Russia also said the shipment of enriched uranium fuel for the plant would be delayed by at least two months.

Iran denied it had failed to pay Russia, saying it has paid even more than was due, and accused Moscow of politicizing the issue.

Later last month, Russia joined the West in voting at the U.N. Security Council to expand sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

"There is no doubt that Bushehr nuclear power plant has been politicized," the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, told the news agency Tuesday. "A political debate has postponed the move toward operating the plant."

However, Aghazadeh said he believed the issue would be resolved.

"Russia has some limitations, but it cannot continue to postpone the matter forever. Iran is a good market for Russia, and the Russians do not want to lose it."

The United States and some of its allies fear that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program under cover of its civilian nuclear program.

Iran denies this, insisting that its program is entirely devoted to the peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy.