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Iran Says First Nuclear Plant to Start in Mid-2008

Iran says its first nuclear power plant will begin operating in mid-2008.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told state media Sunday that the Bushehr nuclear power station will start generating electricity next year at 50 percent of its 1,000 megawatt capacity.

Construction of the reactor has been delayed by payment disputes between Russia and Iran.

Earlier this month, the Russian company that is completing the construction said the plant will not be launched before late 2008.

Russia began making internationally-supervised deliveries of nuclear fuel to the plant this month under terms that mandate the return of all spent fuel to Russia.

Both Russia and the United States said the fuel deliveries make it unnecessary for Iran to enrich its own nuclear fuel.

But Tehran says it needs to make its own fuel to supply a series of new nuclear power plants it plans to build.

Iranian officials have said they plan to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear energy in the next two decades.

The United States and its Western allies have accused Iran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian nuclear program.

Tehran argues that its nuclear work is strictly for civilian purposes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.