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    Russia will have a good chance of participation in the construction of new nuclear power plants in Iran if it completes the Bushehr nuclear power plant on time, a top Iranian official said on Monday.

    TEHRAN, December 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will have a good chance of participation in the construction of new nuclear power plants in Iran if it completes the Bushehr nuclear power plant on time, a top Iranian official said on Monday.

    Tehran is expected to announce soon a tender for the construction of 19 new 1,000-mWt nuclear power plants in the Islamic Republic.

    "Russia may have a better chance of participation in the construction of new nuclear power plants in Iran if it fulfills its obligations on time," said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of Iran's parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy.

    The completion of the Bushehr plant, currently being built by Russia's Atomstroyexport under a 1995 contract, came under threat in February 2007 when Russia complained of payment delays. Iran denied any funding problems and accused Russia of deliberately stalling the project in response to pressure from Western powers.

    Russia and Iran subsequently held several rounds of negotiations to settle disagreements relating to the Bushehr nuclear power plant and recently announced that the plant could be commissioned by March 2009.

    The $1 billion project has also been at the center of an international dispute, with Western countries who suspect Iran of developing nuclear weapons protesting against Russia's nuclear cooperation with the Islamic Republic. The project has been implemented under the supervision of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    On December 16, Russia announced the start of nuclear fuel deliveries to Bushehr. Deliveries are set to continue into February 2008.

    Meanwhile, Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Iran had no intentions of abandoning its own uranium enrichment program and planned to build its first nuclear power plant without foreign participation by March 2017.

    The project stipulates the construction of a 360-mWt plant in southwestern Iran.

    "The [first domestic] nuclear power plant will certainly be built in Iran," the lawmaker said, adding that a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in Isfahan and a nuclear enrichment center in Natanz could provide enough fuel for any future nuclear power plants.

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