Iran’s vice-president has accused the UN and the West of “provoking” Iran into building further uranium enrichment facilities.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband has slammed the move by the Iranian government to approve the construction of 10 new uranium enrichment plants. He said: “This epitomises the fundamental problem that we face with Iran.
“We have stated over and again that we recognise Iran's right to a civilian nuclear programme, but they must restore international confidence in their intentions.
“Instead of engaging with us Iran chooses to provoke and dissemble. Iran can flaunt its isolation but this will only increase the calm, determination and unity of the international community. I urge Iran to recognise this, and to accept the outstretched hand on offer.”
But nuclear chief and Iranian vice president Ali Akbar Salehi said that UN calls to halt work on new nuclear sites had actually encouraged the Iranian government to approve the new plants.
Mr Salehi said: “We had no intention of building many facilities like the Natanz [uranium enrichment] site, but apparently the West doesn’t want to understand Iran’s peaceful message.”
He claimed that the rebukes that Iran received from the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, had given the Iranians the incentive to build more plants.
The French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, expressed his country’s outrage at the plans’ approval, calling it “childish”.
Mr Kouchner said: “Iran is playing an extremely dangerous game. There’s no sense in this, no coherence other than gut reaction.
“Let's give dialogue a last chance and give the necessary space to the European Union.”
France has been particularly vocal in its criticism of the Iranian nuclear programme. French President Nicholas Sarkozy has previously said he believes that Iran should only be given until the end of the year to accept diplomatic efforts.
Germany has also criticised the Iranian plans, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: "Iran must know that the international community's patience is not endless.”