Iran expects to have its own nuclear-generated electricity by this time next year and will not bow to Western pressure to halt uranium enrichment, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday.
Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the southern city of Bushehr that Iran was approaching the peak of its nuclear program.
Iran's planned first nuclear power plant is sited close to Bushehr. The plant would begin test operations by late October, a senior official said yesterday, two days after Russia completed fuel deliveries to the site.
The West suspects Iran's nuclear activities are ultimately aimed at building weapons. Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude oil producer, says it only wants to generate electricity so that it can export more of its oil and gas.
World powers last week agreed the outline of a third UN sanctions resolution against Iran, calling for mandatory travel bans and asset freezes for specific Iranian officials and vigilance on banks in the country.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would not halt its disputed uranium enrichment work, technology which can have both civilian and military purposes.
"If you (the West) imagine that the Iranian nation will back down you are making a mistake," he said in a televized speech.
"On the nuclear path we are moving towards the peak," he said without elaborating, "... next year at this time ... nuclear electricity should flow in Iran's electricity network."
An official from Iran's Atomic Energy Organization gave a more detailed timetable for the Bushehr plant.
"Test operations will start by October 22 and a little while after that Bushehr will become operational," Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh told reporters in Teheran.
Iran on Monday received the eighth and final consignment of nuclear fuel from Russia for the plant near Bushehr, less than two months after the first shipment.
Fayyazbakhsh, who heads the production and development unit of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said he expected Russia to deliver remaining equipment for Bushehr in coming months.
"Out of 50,000 tons of equipment, some 1,900 tons including precision instruments and a ventilation system for Bushehr have yet to be delivered to Iran," he said.
The head of the Russian company building Bushehr, state-run Atomstroiexport, has been quoted as saying the facility would not be operational until at least the end of 2008.
Moscow and Washington say the Russian fuel deliveries should convince Teheran to shut down its uranium enrichment program, but Iran has refused to stop.
Iran says it needs to produce nuclear fuel domestically as it wants to build other power plants as part of a planned network with a capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 2020 to satisfy soaring electricity demand.
Ahmadinejad called on Western powers to take part in building Iranian nuclear power plants.
"If you don't, this nation will build nuclear plants with the hands of its own scientists," he said. "The Iranian nation, without depending on you and without begging you, has today ... set up the complete cycle of fuel production."
(China Daily via Agencies January 31, 2008)