Avigdor Lieberman, April 29, 2010
Avigdor Lieberman, April 29, 2010 Photo by AP
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Israel urged world powers to strengthen the pressure against Iran on Saturday after it began fueling its first nuclear power plant with the help of Russia.

"World powers must strengthen pressure against Iran to comply with international decisions, stop its activities in uranium enrichment and heavy water plants, and respond to the criticism against it," a statement issued by the foreign ministry read.

"It is inconceivable that a country can blatantly breach United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decisions, completely ignore its responsibilities under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and still enjoy the fruits of nuclear energy use," the statement added.

Iranian and Russian engineers began loading fuel into Iran's first nuclear power plant on Saturday, a major milestone as Tehran forges ahead with its atomic program despite UN sanctions.

The weeklong operation to load uranium fuel into the reactor at the Bushehr power plant in southern Iran is the first step in starting up a facility the U.S. once hoped to prevent because of fears over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Yet the U.S. States Department issued a statement saying that it does not see the fueling of Iran's first nuclear power plant in Bushehr as a “proliferation risk."

“We recognize that the Bushehr reactor is designed to provide civilian nuclear power and do not view it as a proliferation risk,” State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said, adding that “It will be under IAEA safeguards and Russia is providing the fuel and taking back the spent nuclear fuel, which would be the principal source of proliferation concerns."

Iranian television showed live pictures of Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi and his Russian counterpart watching a fuel rod assembly being prepared for insertion into the reactor near the Gulf city of Bushehr.

"Despite all the pressures, sanctions and hardships imposed by Western nations, we are now witnessing the start-up of the largest symbol of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," Salehi told a news conference afterwards.

Iranian officials said it would take two to three months before the plant starts producing electricity and would generate 1,000 megawatts, a small proportion of the nation's 41,000 megawatt electricity demand recorded last month.