A bill requiring the Iranian government to design and build nuclear-powered commercial ships was approved by a parliamentary committee Sunday, according to the Associated Press, which cited as its source the semiofficial Mehr News Agency in Tehran.

The measure stipulates the government must provide nuclear fuel for the ships, which would require it to continue uranium enrichment.

The legislation aims to legitimize Iran's claim that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, although Western powers are skeptical and believe the country is trying to covertly develop nuclear weapons.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, nuclear-powered commercial vessels would be uneconomical. Most nuclear-powered vessels that currently exist are warships.

The bill will be debated in parliament next week, while the Iranian government has said it is already designing a nuclear submarine despite doubts about the country's technological capabilities.

Many nuclear submarines require a highly enriched form of uranium, similar to what is used to build atomic weapons.

The U.S. and the European Union have instituted a number of sanctions designed to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, and multilateral talks in recent months over the issue have produced few concrete results.