Russia has agreed to build up to eight nuclear reactors in Iran, 12 days before a deadline for a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activity.The deal agreed by Russia and Iran envisages the construction of two reactors, with scope for a further six.

World powers including Russia have been pressurising Iran to curb its activity amid fears it wants to build a bomb.

Diplomats are due to meet for a final round of talks next week. It is unclear what effect the Russian deal will have.

Six world powers – the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – are seeking to persuade Iran to reduce its uranium enrichment to a level below that required to build a weapon.

They have offered to lift sanctions in exchange.

It is thought that Iran would want help with its civilian nuclear programme in return for submitting itself to more invasive inspections.

Russian news reports quoted Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, as saying that the agreement on building the new reactors was “a turning point in the development of relations between our countries”.

Two of the reactors will be built at the nuclear facility at Bushehr.

Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear power company, said the construction would be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a global watchdog, and will meet safeguards against weapons proliferation.

The deal leaves room for a further two reactors to be built at Bushehr and another four at a separate location.

According to the Associated Press news agency, Russia will supply nuclear fuel for the reactor and retrieve it after it has been used – a mechanism designed to stop Iran from using the fuel to build weapons.

A similar system is already in place for the existing reactor at Bushehr.

Iran has dismissed Western suspicions that its nuclear programme is a cover for making a weapon, insisting that its uranium enrichment activity has a civilian purpose, intended for its energy and medical sectors.