Fordow nuclear facility
The Fordow nuclear facility under construction inside a mountain located about 20 miles north northeast of Qom, Iran. Photo by AP
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A hardline newspaper close to Iran's rulers says the country has begun uranium enrichment at a well-protected underground facility.

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"Kayhan received reports yesterday that shows Iran has begun uranium enrichment at the Fordo facility amid heightened foreign enemy threats," the paper said in a front-page report. Kayhan's manager is a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But Iran's nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi said late Saturday that his country will "soon" begin enrichment at Fordo. It was impossible to immediately reconcile the two reports.

Iran's main uranium enrichment site in Natanz in the center of the country is built partly underground, while the long-secret Fordo facility was built deep inside a mountain as a precaution from aerial attacks.

European diplomatic sources said on Friday that Iran was close to starting uranium enrichment at Fordow. 

According to the sources, Iran has taken steps in recent weeks that bring it closer to launching uranium enrichment deep inside a mountain, a move that would worsen its nuclear confrontation with the West.

Tehran's top nuclear official said on Saturday that Iran's nuclear plant in Bushehr will reach full capacity by the end of the month, after claiming that the Islamic Republic was ready to export nuclear technology to friendly nations in Africa.

The Iranian official made the comments as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad started a tour of South America on Sunday, in an attempt to tout some of Iran's few friendships while tensions grow over the country's threats to block oil shipments in retaliation for tighter U.S. sanctions.

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