United Nations atomic energy chief says it is time for Iran to come to terms with the request of the international community to suspend its nuclear program.

ElBaradei spoke in Tehran as he prepared for meetings Thursday on Iran's nuclear program.

He said the time is right for a political solution through negotiations. He said he hopes Iran will suspend uranium enrichment until what he calls "outstanding issues" are clarified.

Iran's deputy nuclear chief says his country has long-range plans to use 54,000 centrifuges to make fuel for a key nuclear reactor. Mohammad Saeedi said Wednesday the eventual use of the centrifuges at a nuclear facility in the central town of Natanz will produce enough fuel for a 1,000-megawatt reactor.

His comments came amid signs of growing international alarm at Iran's claim to have enriched uranium in 164 centrifuges to a level used in nuclear power plants.

The world's leading powers, including Russia and China, have joined to condemn Iran's apparent defiance of a U.N. Security Council directive, ordering Iran to cease all nuclear work by the end of this month. 

Russia and Germany called the Iranian development a step in the wrong direction. France has urged Iran to stop what it calls dangerous activities. Israel called Iran's claim worrying and frustrating. China said Iran's enrichment move is not in line with what is required by the international community.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday the United Nations must take "strong steps" on Iran.

The Security Council does not plan to take any action until it hears ElBaradei's report on April 28, the Security Council deadline for Iran to halt all nuclear activities.

The United States has long accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes only.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.