Iran says it plans to start enriching uranium deep inside a mountain in the “near future”, according to a senior government official.

If Iran does start conducting atomic activities underground, the move will further antagonise Western powers that accuse Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful civilian purposes.

Iran said in 2011 that it was preparing to move its highest-grade uranium refinement work to Fordow, a facility close to the city of Qom in central Iran from its current enrichment place at Natanz. Centrifuges and other equipment needed for enrichment were installed at Fordow last year.

On 8 January, Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Iran and other major powers had reached an agreement to resume talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in Turkey.