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Iran Delays Power Plant Start-up

Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi says the country's first nuclear power plant will be ready to generate electricity by January, which is at least two months later than previously announced.

Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency quotes Salehi Wednesday as saying officials hope to have fuel transferred to the "core" of the Bushehr reactor by early October. He says the plant should be generating electricity two to three months later.

Salehi gave no reason for the apparent delay. When Iranian officials began loading fuel into Bushehr in August, they said it would take two to three months for the plant to start producing electricity.

Earlier this week, Iranian media reports said the country's nuclear agency was trying to fight a sophisticated computer virus that had affected industrial sites and was capable of taking over power plants.

The reports said Iran's Atomic Energy Organization experts met to discuss ways to remove the malicious computer code, known as Stuxnet.

On Wednesday, Salehi said Iran's "enemies" had failed in their attempts to damage the country's nuclear systems with the virus. He said some personal laptops had been affected but the virus did not reach Bushehr's main system.

Separately, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Iran to return to the negotiating table, regarding its nuclear program. She said Western powers were waiting for Iran to respond to a call for dialogue. Ashton commented Wednesday in Washington, following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Last week, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany (the P5 + 1) announced they had renewed efforts to seek an "early negotiated solution" with Iran.

The U.N. imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran in June for its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

Western powers have accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.