TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran plans to build "four to five" nuclear research reactors and will continue to enrich uranium to provide their fuel, a nuclear official said on Monday despite Western pressure on Tehran to curb atomic work.
The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi, said Tehran would build the reactors "in the next few years" to produce medical radioisotopes, according to the students news agency ISNA.
"To provide the fuel for these (new) reactors, we need to continue with the 20 percent enrichment of uranium," ISNA quoted him as saying.
Abbasi's remarks are likely to deepen Western fears that Iran's atomic work is aimed at building nuclear weapons.
Tehran says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and has dismissed international sanctions that were tightened last year as illegal.
Talks with major powers aimed at resolving the nuclear impasse stalled in January, with Tehran insisting it would not accept any attempt to curtail its nuclear enrichment activities.
Experts have previously said Tehran has stockpiled low-enriched uranium (LEU) and has enough for at least two atomic bombs if it was refined to a much higher level.
Abbasi also said the country would increase the amount of its uranium enriched up to 20 percent whenever needed.
"We will also raise the amount of the enriched uranium up to 20 percent based on our country's need and for doing so, we will not seek anybody's permission," he said.
Iran, a major oil producer, says it wants only LEU for the running of nuclear power plants to boost its electricity supply.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran, reiterating its demand that it suspend enrichment. The Islamic Republic has also been hit by more far- reaching sanctions imposed by the United States and the EU.
On Saturday, Abbasi said "second and third generation" centrifuges -- the machines which enrich uranium to a purity needed in nuclear reactors, or, if to a high enough level, nuclear weapons -- had been produced and tested.
(Writing by Zahra Hosseinian, editing by Alison Williams)