(Newsroom America) -- Iran is close to completing an underground nuclear facility capable of enriching weapons-grade uranium, rushing forward with the project despite international sanctions and calls for Tehran to abandon its program.
Some experts say Iran's strategy is to complete the facility as a way to provide some leverage in any future negotiations with the U.S. and the West, The New York Times reported Friday.
Workers at the facility, called Fordo and built deep under a mountain inside a military base near the holy city of Qum, installed the last of nearly 3,000 centrifuges, which "puts Iran closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon, or come up to the edge, if its leaders ultimately decide to proceed," the paper said.
The U.S., Israel and the United Nations have all vowed not to allow Iran to build atomic weapons, but the sides have not necessarily agreed on how to prevent it. While Washington has not taken military options off the table, the Obama administration has been content thus far to try to solve the issue with diplomacy and sanctions. Israel, on the other had, has been pressing for some sort of military strike aimed at eliminating the threat.
The U.S. and Israel have reportedly attempted to at least slow down Iran's nuclear ambitions, using cyberwarfare for the first time in an offensive capacity. And last week, President Obama said time for a negotiated agreement was "running out."
The Times reported last week that the Obama administration and the Iranian regime had agreed in principle to hold direct talks following the Nov. 6 election, should the president win reelection.
Obama has denied such an agreement, but said during his final debate with GOP rival Mitt Romney Monday night he was open to such talks.
The plant, reportedly, is not yet fully functional, with fewer than half its centrifuges spinning out enriched uranium. But Iran may be able to ramp up to full production within a few months, said the paper.
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