Tehran: Iran will tell the UN nuclear watchdog on Monday of its plans to enrich uranium to 20 percent, atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi told state television on Sunday, adding that the process will begin on Tuesday.
"We will inform the IAEA in a letter tomorrow (Monday) of our intention to enrich uranium to 20 percent," Salehi told the Arabic-language Al-Alam television, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"The higher enrichment will begin at the Natanz plant from the day after tomorrow (Tuesday)," he added. Natanz is in the central province of Isfahan.
Salehi`s remarks came hours after hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered him to begin higher uranium enrichment, raising the stakes in a dispute with the West days after seeming to accept a UN-drafted nuclear deal.
Ahmadinejad`s declaration drew immediate fire from Britain, which said it was "clearly a matter of serious concern”, while US Defence Secretary Robert Gates called for mounting "international pressure" on the Islamic republic.
World powers fear that Tehran wants to enrich uranium to very high levels for use in an atomic weapons programme, and hence want to remove its low-enriched uranium (LEU) through the UN-drafted deal.
Iran insists that its nuclear enrichment drive is purely peaceful.