Brushing aside global concerns over its alleged nuclear weapons programme, Iran’s atomic energy council authorised its atomic energy organisation to take measures and start the contracts for the second phase.

IRNA, the state run news agency reported the council also authorised the organisation to carry out the necessary studies to allow Iran reach its nuclear power production target of 7000 megawatts by 2020.

No particular date for the start of the second phase was however announced.

In the face of persistent accusations by the United States of pursuing a hidden  nuclear weapons programme, Iran has maintained its nuclear ambition is solely for peaceful purposes.

But the stand-off is far from easing.

The international community is pressing Iran to sign an additional protocol to the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty that would allow UN nuclear inspectors to carry out unannounced spot checks.

Iran’s atomic energy council authorised its atomic energy organisation to take measures and start the contracts for the second phase

At present Iran is only obliged to accept pre-arranged visits to sites it chooses to declare.

Even Moscow that is helping to build the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, is urging Iran to accept UN inspections.

The plant is due to go online in 2005 and the second phase is expected to have a production of 1000 megawatts.