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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.

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There is no evidence that Iran has overcome those failings, Ross said. They are trying “to create the image of progress even when they are not advancing, now because they want to suggest they are not being affected by the pressure and isolation” of sanctions, he said.

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Iran’s announcements may have been timed for the day its leaders sent a letter to the EU about resuming talks to signal that the nation is “in a position of strength,” Peter Crail, a research analyst at the Arms Control Association in Washington, said in an interview. These were “posturing, more than real advances,” he said.

David Albright, a physicist and former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, told Bloomberg that the fuel rods are not difficult to produce and don’t have military implications. Only a “handful” of countries – the US among them – can build the fuel plates needed for the reactor, Iranian officials said.

Yesterday, Iran also sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announcing that it was ready to resume talks, accepting an offer made in October. Agence France-Presse reports that the letter was likely intended to coincide with the nuclear announcement.

The declarations [of nuclear progress] were meant to underline Iran's progress in mastering all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and underline its commitment to what it said was a purely peaceful atomic programme for energy generation and medical use.

They also underlined the Islamic republic's determination to push on with nuclear activities despite US and EU sanctions aimed at throttling its economy, especially its all-important oil exports – and despite speculation Israel or the United States could launch air strikes against its nuclear facilities.

AFP also noted that Iran's state-run media claimed that the nuclear progress gave Iran " 'the upper hand' in its future negotiations with the P5+1," a reference to the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

The New York Times notes that the international community is watching Iran closely for signs of the effect that sanctions are having. It reported that this week’s events – on top of the nuclear announcements, Iran is suspected of attempting to assassinate Israelis abroad – “suggest that Iranian leaders are responding frantically, and with increasing unpredictability, to the tightening of sanctions by the West.”

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