Iran close to enriching uranium, says official

IRAN will in the “near future” start enriching uranium deep inside a mountain, a senior official said, a move likely to further antagonise Western powers which suspect Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons capability.

A decision by the Islamic Republic to conduct sensitive atomic activities at an underground site - offering better protection against any enemy attacks - could complicate diplomatic efforts to resolve the long-running row peacefully.

Iran has said for months that it is preparing to move its highest-grade uranium refinement work to Fordow, a facility near the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom in central Iran, from its main enrichment plant at Natanz.

“The Fordow nuclear enrichment plant will be operational in the near future,” the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, said.