TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has begun enriching uranium at a new underground site, a leading Iranian newspaper reported Sunday.
The Fordo nuclear complex, built into a mountain near the Shiite Muslim holy city of Qom, is said to have more sophisticated centrifuges used to enrich uranium and to be better protected from possible airstrikes by foreign powers than a facility in Natanz in central Iran.
“The transfer of uranium enrichment to Fardo means that the option of a military threat against the nuclear program of Iran is taken off the table for good,” the Kayhan daily reported Sunday. “The West will have to gradually accept the immunity of the program against any interference by foreigners.”
The announcement came at a time of escalating tension over Iran’s nuclear program, which the United States and its allies suspect is aimed at developing weapons. Iran maintains that the program is for peaceful purposes only.
President Barack Obama recently approved new sanctions against financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank, to make it more difficult for the country to sell its oil. The European Union is also considering additional measures, including an oil embargo.
Iranian officials have threatened to retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz, through which pass tanker ships carrying about a fifth of the world’s oil exports.