Iran has started using domestically made nuclear fuel rods for its reactors. The loading ceremony was widely publicized and was attended by President Ahmedinejad. The government also unveiled more advanced and efficient centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility.
Iran wants to demonstrate that it does not need foreign assistance towards advancing its nuclear program and would not be deterred by western sanctions. Western countries fear that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons while the country contends that it only wants to fulfill its energy needs through the use of nuclear technology.
Meanwhile, Chief of the General Staff for the Russian Armed Forces, Nikolai Makarov, stated the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program is likely come to a head by this summer. He added that Russia is monitoring the situation of Iran and the Middle East very closely and in real time.
On the other hand, reports indicate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad will travel to Beijing in mid-March to secure oil exports to China and strengthen political and strategic ties with the country. China has vowed to continue trading with Iran despite US-EU sanctions and is trying to convince western powers that the concerns over Iran’s nuclear program should be resolved through negotiations.
In this regard, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu travelled to Tehran on February 11th to discuss the nuclear issue and to mediate the talks between six representative nations- Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany – and Iran. He also recommended that Iran should cooperate with IAEA. Iran has shown willingness to resume talks at the earliest and its oil minister is also planning to visit China, Japan, India and Russia.