The chief of Russia's state nuclear corporation said on Thursday that the country would start up the reactor at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant by the end of this year.

"2010 is the year of Bushehr," Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Moscow.

Kiriyenko's statement came as an Iranian official told Bloomberg News that U.S.-led sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program will only empower Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Russia's state nuclear corporation chief added that "There is absolutely no doubt that it will be built this year. Everything is going according to schedule," he said. Kiriyenko declined to answer a question on when exactly the plant would be started up.

Russia agreed in 1995 to build the 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant at Bushehr on the Gulf coast in south-western Iran, but delays have haunted the e1 billion project and diplomats say Moscow has used it as a lever in relations with Tehran.

The atomic power station was once a source of disagreement between Russia and the West, which suspected the Islamic Republic could try to use it to build nuclear weapons.

But in recent years, the United States has dropped its opposition and says the plant removes any need for Iran to have its own enrichment program.

Russia says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program as it will come under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision. Iran will have to return all spent fuel rods to Russia.

In his interview with Bloomerg News, Mohammad Nahavandian, president of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines, claimed that sanctions have only worked against small nations facing near universal opposition.

?Iran is a big economy with many neighbors, a lot of interested parties who do not want to join in,? he told Bloomberg.

Iran's failure to meet an effective U.S. deadline of Dec. 31 to accept the plan devised in October by then-IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has prompted six world powers to start considering possible tougher sanctions against Tehran.

?Despite all of the talk about sanctions, trade has been rising,? Nahavandian said. ?So the reality in the field is different from the talk in the diplomatic corps.