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Iran reveals own nuke fuel rods, advanced centrifuges

TEHRAN, Iran -- An Iranian news agency says that the country has started using new advanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment site.

The semiofficial Fars agency reported Wednesday that a “new generation of Iranian centrifuges” had been installed and operated at the Natanz site in the center of the country.

Iran the same day announced that it had begun loading domestically made nuclear fuel rods into its Tehran research reactor, a defiant move in response to toughening Western sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.

Iran has added 3,000 more centrifuges to its uranium enrichment effort, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday as he unveiled progress in his country's controversial nuclear program.

“Approximately 6,000 centrifuges were working, 3,000 have been added to that amount. (Now) there are 9,000,” he said in a speech broadcast on state television.

The official IRNA news agency said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inserted the first Iranian-made rod into the reactor in northern Tehran, and state TV broadcast live images from the ceremony with Iranian nuclear experts briefing Ahmadinejad on the process.

Iran touted the development as an incremental step in the country's efforts to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle, despite Western penalties and U.N. sanctions.

The West suspects Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies, insisting it's geared for peaceful purposes only, such as energy production. The Tehran reactor, for example, produces nuclear isotopes for treating cancer patients.

Oil Sales Cut Delayed

Iran said on Wednesday it was considering cutting oil sales to six EU countries but would not do so “at the moment,” while unperturbed European officials said they were looking for other suppliers anyway.

State broadcaster IRIB reported on its website that the ambassadors of France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain were called to the foreign ministry in Tehran and warned that “Iran will revise its oil sale to these countries.”

The warning was in retaliation to an EU ban on Iranian oil imports that is being phased in as existing contracts expire up to July 1.

But after world oil prices spiked — in part because Iran's English-language Press TV had reported Iran had already “cut” oil exports to those countries — media reported that no steps had yet been taken to reduce EU oil exports.

“Due to humanitarian reasons and the cold weather in the continent, it (Iran) will not do so at the moment,” Iran's Arabic broadcaster Al-Alam said.

“We came to a conclusion to send a strong and serious message to the Europeans about our oil contracts,” IRIB quoted a foreign ministry official, Hassan Tajik, saying.

“Our message is that we can immediately replace our oil customers,” he said.

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An image grab taken from a broadcast on the state-run Press TV shows centrifuges at Iran's Nantanz nuclear site, Wednesday, Feb. 15. Iran has said that is has activated a new generation of centrifuges at Natanz and they are three times more productive.

(AFP PHOTO/PRESS TV)

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