UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States has no problem with Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor plant but with other sites where weapons work may be underway, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday.
"Our problem is not with their reactor at Bushehr, our problem is with their facilities at places like Natanz and their secret facility at Qom and other places where we believe they are conducting their weapons program," Clinton said.
Iran began loading fuel into the core of its first nuclear power plant at Bushehr earlier on Tuesday, its atomic energy chief said, the last major step to realizing its stated goal of becoming a peaceful user of nuclear energy.
"I heard some of the news coverage that, you know, oh my goodness the Iranians are starting their reactor. That is not the issue," she told reporters at a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger.
"They are entitled to peaceful civilian nuclear power. They are not entitled to nuclear weapons," Clinton added.
Iranian officials said Bushehr showed Iran's nuclear plans were on track despite U.N., U.S. and European Union sanctions aimed at forcing it to curb uranium enrichment, which many countries fear is aimed at developing atomic bombs.
Spindelegger said that there were signs Iran was ready to come to the negotiating table. Clinton confirmed that Washington also hoped Tehran would resume negotiations with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China on an offer of incentives in exchange for Iran halting enrichment.
She said she hoped that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton could soon launch "an in-depth negotiation (with Iran) over their nuclear program" on behalf of the six powers.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Sandra Maler