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Iran to load rods in nuclear reactor Wednesday: official

Iran on Wednesday will install its first domestically produced nuclear fuel rods in a research reactor whose operation has caused growing tension with the West, according to a senior official.

Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Baqeri told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency in an interview that the loading ceremony would be attended personally by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has promised to make a major announcement this month.

“We began enriching uranium to 20 percent in order to make fuel rods because Western countries are not ready to help us,” Baqeri told the Russian news agency in Tehran.

“And for the first time, fuel rods produced by Iranian scientists will be installed in the presence of the Islamic Republic’s president in Tehran’s research reactor on Wednesday,” Baqeri was quoted as saying.

Iran has previously argued that the 20-percent enriched uranium was necessary for its Tehran research reactor to make isotopes for treating cancers.

Western powers and Israel fear the enrichment is a part of Tehran’s drive to produce nuclear weapons.