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The U.S. and Israel have said that all options remain open, including military action, should Iran continue with its enrichment program.

Tehran says it needs the program to produce fuel for future nuclear reactors and medical radioisotopes needed for cancer patients.

The country has been enriching uranium to less than 5 percent for years, but it began to further enrich part of its uranium stockpile to nearly 20 percent as of February 2010, saying it needs the higher grade material to produce fuel for a Tehran reactor that makes medical radioisotopes needed for cancer patients. Weapons-grade uranium is usually about 90 percent enriched.

Iran says the higher enrichment activities — to nearly 20 percent — will be carried out at Fordo. These operations are of particular concern to the West because uranium at 20 percent enrichment can be converted into fissile material for a nuclear warhead much more quickly than that at 3.5 percent.

Built next to a military complex, Fordo long was kept secret and was only acknowledged by Iran after it was identified by Western intelligence agencies in September 2009.

Buried under 300 feet of rock, the facility is a hardened tunnel and is protected by air defense missile batteries and the Revolutionary Guard. The site is located about 20 miles north of Qom, the religious nerve center of Iran‘s ruling system.

“The Fordo facility, like Natanz, has been designed and built underground. The enemy doesn’t have the ability to damage it,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Mr. Abbasi as saying Sunday.