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Iran's nuclear chief sees no reason to halt

Iran's nuclear chief said Sunday that there are no reasons at the moment for his country to halt production of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a key demand of world powers, and that Iran is planning two new reactors.

The West is concerned that the 20 percent enrichment could quickly be turned into nuclear weapons-grade material.

The nuclear chief, Fereidoun Abbasi, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying that Iran will continue the higher enrichment level for a medical research reactor that produces isotopes for treatment of about 1 million cancer patients in Iran.

"There is no reason for us to back down on 20 percent-level enrichment, because we produce only as much 20 percent material as we need," Abbasi said. "Not more, not less."

Abbasi said Iran is planning to build at least two new nuclear power plants next to an existing facility that became operational with Russia's help last year.

Abbasi also said Iran is in the very early stages of planning the new 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants and that it may begin construction within a year or two.

He also said Iran has not yet been persuaded to allow the U.N. nuclear agency access to a military complex to probe suspicions that, in 2003, Tehran secretly tested explosives needed to set off a nuclear bomb. The suspected blasts would have taken place inside a pressure chamber.