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Terrorism & Security

Israel, US dismiss Iran's most recent nuclear progress claims

Iran made a show yesterday of the loading of domestically produced fuel rods and installment of new centrifuges. Israel and the US see the moves as bravado.

By Staff writer / February 16, 2012

In this file photo released by the Iranian President's Office, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center, listens to a technician during his visit of the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility some 200 miles south of the capital Tehran. Iran said on Feb. 15 it is dramatically closer to mastering the production of nuclear fuel even as the U.S. weighs tougher pressures and Tehran's suspected shadow war with Israel brings probes far beyond the Middle East.

Iranian Presidents office/AP/File

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Both the US and Israel, who are leading the international community’s effort to block Iran’s nuclear progress, have said that Iran’s most recent announcement of a “nuclear breakthrough” is inflated.

Iran’s Press TV reported yesterday that 3,000 new centrifuges had been installed at the main enrichment site of Natanz and that the country had loaded domestically produced nuclear fuel rods into its medical research reactor, Bloomberg reports. The station broadcast photos of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad overseeing the loading of the fuel rod, according to the Associated Press.

“Our view on this is that it’s not terribly new and it’s not terribly impressive,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in Washington yesterday, describing the announcement as “hyped,” according to Bloomberg. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the presentation a “show,” saying that Iran wants its nuclear program to seem “irreversible,” according to Associated Press. “Iran is trying to "make it seem ... like the point of no return is already behind them, which is not the case," Mr. Barak said.

Israel's dismissals come as a surprise after months of dire Israeli warnings about Iran’s nuclear progress. Israel, the US, and much of Europe believe Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon – which Tehran has denied – and Israel has been the most strident voice.

Dennis Ross, until recently one of President Obama’s chief advisers on the Middle East, said that the Press TV report was “more symbolism than anything else” and an effort to prove that punishing US and EU sanctions are having little effect.

[Mr. Ross said that] Iran has “claimed for years that they are installing next generation centrifuges, and they continue to have material and technical problems that bedevil their operation.”

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