Iran's first nuclear plant to launch Saturday

Its long-anticipated launch comes despite Russia hardening its position on Iran's nuclear programme and backing a fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions in June over Tehran's continued uranium enrichment work.

The sanctions targeting Iran's military and nuclear programmes do not affect the Bushehr plant.

The project, near the port city of Bushehr in southern Iran, was first launched by the US-backed shah of Iran in the 1970s using contractors from German company Siemens.
But it was shelved when the shah was ousted during the 1979 Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The power station lay unfinished throughout the 1980s as Iran battled internal opposition and the 1980-1988 war against Iraq.

It was revived in the late 1980s under the leadership of the new supreme leader Ali Khamenei and then president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Throughout the early 1990s, Iran sought help for the project after being turned away by Siemens over nuclear proliferation concerns.

Despite being the world's fourth largest crude oil producer and having the second largest gas reserves, Iran insists it needs nuclear power to sustain a growing population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.

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