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Iran Ready to Start Up First Nuclear Reactor

Iran is making final preparations to start up a nuclear reactor at the Bushehr facility, scheduled to begin operations Saturday.

Russia, which helped build the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, on Friday gave assurances that Tehran will not be able to use fuel intended for the plant to create nuclear weapons.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency that Russia will deliver the fuel for the reactor and will then recycle the waste in accordance with nonproliferation requirements. He gave "total 100 percent guarantees" that the use will be peaceful.

Many in the international community suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, meanwhile says the country will continue to enrich uranium to use as nuclear fuel despite the Russian supply.

Salehi told the Iranian news agency IRNA that the country will need more fuel for Bushehr, as well as for future plants. He said Tehran is in the final stages of finding suitable locations for 10 new uranium enrichment facilities.

The United States, the United Nations and the European Union have imposed tough sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

In an unrelated development, The New York Times reported that U.S. officials have assured Israel that Iran would need at least one year to convert nuclear material into a weapon.

The newspaper says Obama administration officials believe the assessment dims the chance that Israel will pre-emptively strike Iran's nuclear facilities within the next year -- something that Israel has previously hinted it would consider.

Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence because of repeated calls by Iranian leaders for the demise of the Jewish state. Israel has indicated it would respond with a military strike if it believes Iran is close to attaining a nuclear weapon.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.