Iran says first nuclear plant begins operating

"Without any propaganda and fuss we sealed the cover of the reactor and all the fuel rods are in the core of the reactor," atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by Fars news agency, without specifying when.

But Salehi said the authorities in the Islamic republic "hope that electricity produced at the Bushehr plant will be connected to the national grid in a month or two."

Iran says it needs the plant, which had been under construction since the 1970s in the southern port city of Bushehr before it was completed by Russia, to meet growing demand for electricity.

But Western governments suspect Iran's nuclear programme masks a drive for an atomic weapons capability, an ambition Tehran has steadfastly denied.

Salehi's announcement come ahead of the likely resumption of stalled negotiations between world powers and Iran on Tehran's controversial nuclear programme in Geneva on December 5.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said this week she had received "informal confirmations" from Iran about the date and location for the talks, "but I want a formal confirmation."

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