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Iran Nuclear Announcement Provocative, U.S. Official Says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Iran's announcement that it plans to expand nuclear fuel production and enrichment plants raises serious concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions, a senior U.S. administration official said today.

"This announcement is a provocative move in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. The Iranian government knows that this will not meet the humanitarian needs of the Iranian people, and risks creating more regional instability," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today about its decision to enrich uranium at its Natanz plant to a level of 20 percent for use in a reactor producing medical isotopes, compared with the 3.5 percent it makes now.

"Iran cannot fabricate the fuel for the Tehran research reactor in time to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medical isotopes, which calls into question the true motivation of going from 3.5 percent to 20 percent enrichment," the official said.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has said Iran remains open to a proposed deal by major powers that would remove the bulk of potential nuclear bomb material Iran has stockpiled.

"The IAEA's proposal is the most practical and responsible solution -- it would address Iran's humanitarian need and build international confidence in Iranian intentions," the official said.