Iran to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities

Iran unveiled plans Sunday to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities, a move that is likely to raise tensions with major powers over Tehran's suspected nuclear arms development program and accelerate calls for additional U.N. sanctions.

Iran's government ordered the Atomic Energy Organization to begin building five of the planned 10 facilities whose sites have already been decided and propose locations for the remaining five within two months, the state-run IRIB TV reported.

The announcement came only days after the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted a resolution demanding Iran halt the construction of a newly revealed enrichment facility in Qom.

Iran currently has one operating uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and the facility in Qom would be the country's second. All the newly announced facilities would be on the same scale as the one in Natanz.

The United States on Sunday condemned the Iranian plans to build 10 new facilities.

''If true, this would be yet another serious violation of Iran's clear obligations under multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, and another example of Iran choosing to isolate itself,'' White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement. ''Time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns about its nuclear program.''

The United States and its allies suspect Iran's uranium enrichment is intended to make nuclear arms but Teheran denies the allegation, saying its program is for peaceful purposes.

According to IRIB, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran will build the facilities because it needs 250 to 300 tons of nuclear fuel a year for nuclear power generation. He was also quoted as saying the country needs 500,000 centrifuges.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Nov. 30, 2009)