The United States on Sunday said time was running out for Iran to address the growing concerns of the international community about its nuclear programme, as the Islamic republic approved plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities in defiance of UN demands.

“If true, this would be yet another serious violation of Iran’s clear obligations under multiple UN security council resolutions, and another example of Iran choosing to isolate itself,” the White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, said in a statement here.

His comments came after Iran’s state television reported yesterday that the cabinet ordered construction to begin at five new sites earmarked for enrichment plants and asked officials to locate sites for another five such facilities over the next two months.

“The international community has made clear that Iran has rights, but with those rights come responsibilities. As the overwhelming IAEA board of governors vote made clear, time is running out for Iran to address the international community’s growing concerns about its nuclear programme,” Gibbs said.

Iran said the announcement has been made in retaliation to a resolution passed last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which censored Iran for a newly discovered uranium enrichment site in Qom that it had not acknowledged until recently.

Friday’s IAEA resolution saw China and Russia, which have close links with Tehran, join Britain, France, Germany and the United States in condemning Iran over the plant near Qom town.

India also voted in favour of the measure that demanded that Iran immediately suspend construction of Qom site.

“The decision taken today is a firm reply to the indecent move by the five plus one in the latest IAEA meeting,” Ali Akbar Salehi, vice-president and the head of Iran’s atomic organisation, said.

“Ten new enrichment sites will be built. We are as much committed to our rights as we are to our international obligations,” Mr. Salehi was quoted as saying by the Iranian state media.

Western powers have long suspected that Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, but the Islamic republic denies the allegation. The western countries object to Tehran’s uranium enrichment work which can be used to power nuclear reactors, but in highly purified form can make the fissile core of an atom bomb

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