DUBAI - Iran will continue enriching uranium "with intensity", with the number of enrichment centrifuges it has operating to increase substantially in the current year, the country's nuclear energy chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The comments by Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, signalled continued defiance by Iran in the face of international demands that Tehran halt enrichment to the higher 20 percent fissile purity level, close down its Fordow enrichment plant, and ship out its stockpile of the material.

Iran has faced a tightening of Western trade sanctions in the last two years, with the United States and its allies hoping the measures will force Iran to curb its nuclear program.

"Despite the sanctions, most likely this year we will have a substantial growth in centrifuge machines and we will continue (uranium) enrichment with intensity," Abbasi-Davani was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the website of Iranian state television (IRIB).

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