Iran's atomic energy chief said on Sunday that the Islamic Republic was entitled to enrich uranium to the weapons-grade level of 90%, and announced that Tehran was planning to construct four new nuclear plants with the help of Russia.
While Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), refrained from saying his country would implement plans to enrich uranium at the level needed to yield nuclear weapons material, he said Iran had the "right" to.
"Firstly, we believe that we are entitled to any right that any NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) and (International Atomic Energy) Agency member has, which means that enrichment (of uranium) from 1% to 90% is our right," Iran's semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
However, Salehi said Iran had agreed to limit its enrichment activities to the 5% level, under the terms of an interim deal reached between Tehran and the P5+1 world powers in November.
Salehi also said his country planned to build four new nuclear power plants in the coming years to accompany Iran's sole nuclear power plant Bushehr. He said construction of what would be Iran's second nuclear site was due to begin in the coming Iranian-calendar year. He added that construction of the next three plants would continue every other year following alongside Russian experts.
Iranian officials have previously stated that plans to build more nuclear reactors were underway.
On Wednesday, Iran and world power concluded two days of negotiations in Vienna.
Despite remaining gaps between the West and the Islamic Republic, the so-called P5+1 powers - the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China - were prepared to draft a comprehensive agreement on Iran's expanisve nuclear program.
The stakes in a deal are high on both sides. Western powers, along with Russia and China, want to avert an escalation of tensions in the Middle East in the form of a new war or a regional nuclear arms race. Iran, for its part, is keen to be rid of international sanctions hobbling its oil-based economy.