TEHRAN, Iran

Official defends enrichment, says two reactors planned

Iran’s nuclear chief said Sunday there are no reasons at the moment for his country to halt production of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a key demand of world powers, and Iran is planning two new reactors.

The West is concerned that the 20-percent enrichment could quickly be turned into nuclear weapons-grade material. Iran insists its nuclear development program is for peaceful purposes.

The nuclear chief, Fereidoun Abbasi, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying that Iran will continue the higher enrichment level for a medical research reactor that produces isotopes for treatment of about 1 million cancer patients in Iran.

“There is no reason for us to back down on 20 percent-level enrichment, because we produce only as much 20 percent material as we need,” Abbasi said. “Not more, not less.”

Abbasi said Iran is planning to build at least two new nuclear power plants next to an existing facility that became operational with Russia’s help last year.

Abbasi was quoted by state TV as saying Sunday that Iran is in the very early stages of planning the new 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants and that it may begin construction within a year or two.

He also said Iran has not yet been convinced to allow the U.N. nuclear agency access to a military complex to probe suspicions that in 2003, Tehran secretly tested explosives needed to set off a nuclear bomb. The suspected blasts would have taken place inside a pressure chamber.

WASHINGTON

Rolling Thunder bikers rally on behalf of MIAs and POWs

The father of a U.S. soldier who was taken prisoner in Afghanistan thanked the motorcycle riders of Rolling Thunder on Sunday for raising awareness of missing-in-action troops and prisoners of war.

At the annual Rolling Thunder rally on the National Mall, Bob Bergdahl promised his son: “You will come home. We will not leave you behind.”

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 26, of Hailey, Idaho, was taken prisoner in Afghanistan nearly three years ago. He is the subject of a proposed prisoner swap in which the Obama administration would allow the transfer of five Taliban prisoners long held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hundreds of thousands of bikers, including both military veterans and nonveterans, gathered this weekend for the rally.

GOP member of labor board quits over ethics accusations

A member of the National Labor Relations Board accused of leaking inside information has resigned, the agency announced Sunday.

Terence Flynn had been under pressure to leave since March, when the board’s inspector general found that Flynn committed ethics violations by improperly revealing confidential details on the status of pending cases.

Flynn, a Republican, shared the information with two former board members, including a one-time labor adviser to presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s campaign. That adviser, Peter Schaumber, left the Romney campaign in December, around the time the investigation into Flynn began.

Flynn submitted a letter to President Obama and to the board’s chairman, Mark Pearce, late Saturday saying he would resign effective July 24, but would recuse himself from all agency business until he departs.

While Flynn did not mention the allegations against him, he had previously denied any wrongdoing. Flynn’s personal lawyer had claimed any discussions about board proceedings were not illegal.

Flynn is one of five members of the board, which oversees union elections and enforces labor laws. It has been the focus of intense partisan wrangling, with Republicans and business groups complaining that it leans too heavily in favor of labor unions.

Obama bypassed the Senate to appoint Flynn and two Democratic nominees to the board in January.