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Iran claims two major steps toward nuclear self-sufficiency

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed off new fuel rods at a research reactor in Tehran. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET: Iran claimed Wednesday that it has taken two major steps toward mastering the production of nuclear fuel, a defiant move in response to increasingly tough Western sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, said that Iran was destabilizing the world.

Israel has accused Iran of waging a campaign of state terror and has threatened military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, while Iran has blamed the Jewish state for the recent killings of Iranian atomic scientists. Iran has denied responsibility for three bombing incidents this week.


In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad oversaw the insertion of the first Iranian domestically-made fuel rod into a research reactor in northern Tehran, the country's official IRNA news agency reported.

Separately, the semiofficial Fars agency reported that a "new generation of Iranian centrifuges" had been installed and had gone into operation at the country's main uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in central Iran.

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 crisis has already resulted in sanctions placed on Iran's economy, and there are fears that it could escalate to military action.

Iran: Nuclear facilities immune to cyber attack

Iran's nuclear announcements came as the country said Wednesday it halted oil exports to six European countries — the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Greece and Portugal — in response to recent new European Union sanctions.

State TV later quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying crude oil exports to Europe had not yet been cut, reversing that earlier report.

Hasan Tajik said six European diplomats were summoned Wednesday and told that Iran has no problem replacing customers — an implied threat that Tehran would carry out plans to cut European Union countries off immediately to preempt sanctions set to go into effect in July.

Iran has said it is forced to manufacture nuclear fuel rods, which provide fuel for reactors, on its own since international sanctions ban it from buying them on foreign markets. In January, Iran said it had produced its first such fuel rod.

IRNA boasted that the nuclear fuel announcement is the final step in the entire cycle of nuclear fuel — from extracting uranium ore to producing the finished rods.

Amid rising tensions with Israel, Iran says they are willing to resume nuclear talks with the World Security Council. The Woodrow Wilson Center's Robin Wright talks about Iran's nuclear developments.

'Terror operations'
Israel's Netanyahu reiterated claims that Iran was behind explosions this week that targeted Israeli diplomats in India and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, as Israeli officials strongly suggested Iran was behind bomb blasts in Bangkok Tuesday.

"If this aggression isn't halted, ultimately it will spread to many other countries," Netanyahu said.

"Iran's terror operations are now exposed for all to see," Netanyahu added, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "Iran is undermining the world's stability and harms innocent diplomats. World countries must condemn Iran's terror acts and draw a red line."

PhotoBlog: Graphic photo of bomb scene

On Monday in New Delhi, an explosion tore through an Israeli diplomatic vehicle, wounding the driver and a diplomat's wife, according to Indian officials.

On the same day in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, authorities say attackers planted an explosive device on the car of a driver for the Israeli Embassy, but it was discovered and defused before it went off.

 Meanwhile, Thailand's government was struggling to piece together what three Iranian men were plotting when a cache of explosives detonated by mistake in their home in Bangkok's busy Sukhumvit Road area Tuesday.

Police released images of  three suspects, two of whom were arrested in Thailand, while a third was detained in Malaysia Wednesday.

Bangkok blasts wound Iranian attacker, 4 others

Israel's ambassador to Thailand, Itzhak Shoha, said Wednesday that homemade "sticky" bombs discovered in a Bangkok house after the accidental blast were similar to devices used in India and Georgia, building on his country's claims the incidents are part of a covert terror campaign by Iran.

"They are similar to the ones used in Delhi and in Tbilisi," Shoham said. "From that we can assume that there is the same network of terror." That and the arrests of Iranians in Thailand "again leaves not too much room to assume who was behind it," Shoham said.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the allegations "baseless," saying Israel was trying to damage its relations with Thailand and fuel "conspiracy" theories.

Thai bomb disposal teams searched the Iranians' house again Wednesday looking for more evidence.

Two of the men were initially detained but Thai immigration police chief Lt. Gen. Wiboon Bangthamai said a third suspect, named as Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, had flown to Malaysia.

The man boarded a flight bound for Kuala Lumpur Tuesday night, Bangthamai said.

However on Wednesday, police in Malaysia said the third suspect had been arrested.

Security forces in Thailand were also searching for an Iranian woman who they said had originally rented the house.

Confessions?
Late Tuesday, Israel's Channel 10 TV quoted unidentified Thai authorities as saying the captured Iranians confessed to targeting Israeli interests.

Thai police have named the Iranian pair in custody as Saeid Moradi, who lost at least one leg in a self-inflicted grenade blast as he tried to flee police, and Mohummad Hazaei, who was detained Tuesday as he tried to board a flight to Malaysia.

Both men are now facing four criminal charges, including possession of explosives, attempted murder, attempted murder of a policeman and causing explosions that damaged property.

Israel accuses Iran of bombings in India, Georgia

Top security agencies called a news conference in which authorities acknowledged to being caught by surprise and said they had little information about who the alleged attackers were or their possible targets.

National Security Council chief Wichean Potephosree said the government had not yet determined if there was any link between the events in Bangkok, New Delhi and Tbilisi.

"We haven't found any links but we are still investigating," Wichean said. "We admit there was magnetic component, aiming at individuals, but the origin of the magnets still has to be investigated."

Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran's nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News

When police searched the house, the bomb squad found and defused two explosives, each made of three or four pounds of C-4 explosives inside a pair of radios.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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