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      Russia Welcomes Iran to 'Nuclear Club'

      Russia welcomes Iran to the world's 'nuclear club' as Tehran officially inaugurated its Bushehr nuclear reactor.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 9/12/2011, 10:28 PM

      Russia welcomed Iran to the 'nuclear club' on Monday as the Bushehr reactor on Iran's southern coast officially began production of electricity.

      "Iran has joined the club of the advanced countries which posses atomic energy," Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said from the sidelines of a ceremony to officially launch the Bushehr nuclear power plant, stressing that assisting Iran to join the world's nuclear club was an honor for Moscow.

      He also reiterated that Russia is willing to continue its cooperation with Iran in the field of nuclear technology.

      The Bushehr nuclear power plant officially joined Iran's national grid at an initial 40% of power generation capacity.

      The power plant will gradually reach its utmost power for the generation of 1,000mw of electricity.

      Iran signed a deal with Russia in 1995, according to which the plant was originally scheduled for completion in 1999. However, the project was repeatedly delayed by the Russian side due to the intense pressure exerted on Moscow by the United States and its western allies. Russia finally completed construction of the plant last summer.

      On October 26, Iran started injecting fuel into the core of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the initial phase of launching the nuclear reactor.

      Meanwhile, on Sunday Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili wrote to the European Union foreign affairs chief to announce the Islamic state's readiness for fresh nuclear talks with major powers.

      "A few days ago, Mr. Jalili's letter was sent to Ms. Catherine Ashton ... saying Iran is prepared for talks ... to reach bilateral agreements," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in a news conference, when asked about Iran's nuclear work.

      In response a spokesman for Ashton said: "We have received the letter, and we will study it carefully."

      But Western diplomats and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials remain deeply concerned over Iran's nuclear program, which they say has military as well as civilian aspirations.

      Iran has denied the accusation, but IAEA complain Iran has routinely obstructed their attempts to inspect its nuclear facilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that Iran has sought nuclear technologies unique to implosion bombs - an atomic bomb more advanced than those used at the end of WWII.

      Across the Gulf from the coastal Bushehr plant, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have said they will also seek nuclear arms if Tehran does, raising the specter of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

      Also on Monday, former US Vice President Dick Cheney said he believed Israel would strike Iran's nuclear facilities if the Jewish state believed Tehran was on the verge of acquiring nuclear arms.