Iran's nuclear chief says his country will begin construction of a new uranium enrichment site by March next year.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi's announcement is a slap to international efforts to halt Tehran's enrichment program - a process that can be used for power generation or nuclear weapons making.

The planned site is among 10 new sites that Iran approved last year in a dramatic expansion of the controversial program. Monday's announcement on state TV said the locations for the 10 sites have been determined but gave no details.

Iran has one large enrichment site in Natanz and a smaller one near Qom. It says it needs 20 sites to meet domestic electricity needs in the next 15 years.

Tehran denies Western accusations it is seeking to make nuclear weapons.

A third enrichment site is currently under construction in the Fordo village near the holy city of Qom, about 100 kilometers south of Tehran.

The Fordo site is scheduled to become operational by the end of 2010 and at least 3,000 centrifuges are to be installed there.

Iran says it ultimately aims to build 10 to 20 more sites to make enough nuclear fuel to cover its electricity needs.

The government has reportedly already chosen the locations for five more sites but no details are yet available.

Russia announced Friday that it would provide the fuel for Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency were to attend the handover ceremony scheduled for August 21.