VIENNA - Iran has taken steps in recent weeks that bring it closer to launching uranium enrichment deep inside a mountain, diplomatic sources say, a move that would worsen its nuclear confrontation with the West.
Iran has said for months that it is preparing to conduct uranium enrichment at Fordow - a protected site deep underground where it says it wants to make material for a peaceful nuclear reactor - but it has yet to start.
The West suspects it of seeking the enriched uranium for a bomb, and wants it to halt the plans. Were Iran to begin production at the site, near the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom, it could make it harder to revive nuclear talks that collapsed a year ago.
Western countries have imposed increasingly tight economic sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program, culminating with a new law signed on New Year's Eve by US President Barack Obama aimed at preventing buyers from paying for Iranian oil.