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Iran to load own nuclear fuel rods in Tehran reactor

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will load domestically made nuclear fuel rods into its Tehran Research Reactor on Wednesday for the first time to keep it running, a senior official told a national news agency.

Tehran had announced in January that it had successfully manufactured and tested fuel rods for use in nuclear power plants, a move to show that international sanctions are failing to stop it making advances in nuclear know-how and to strengthen its hand in any renewed negotiations with six world powers.

"The first home-made nuclear fuel roads will be loaded in the Tehran Nuclear Research Reactor in the presence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," Ali Baqeri, deputy head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told student news agency ISNA.

The Tehran reactor produces radio-isotopes for use in medical treatments and agriculture.

Iran says it was forced to make its own fuel for the Tehran reactor after failing to agree terms for a deal to obtain it from the West to replenish imported Argentinian stocks expected to run out in the near future. But many analysts doubted Iran would be able to convert its uranium into special reactor fuel.

The West accuses Iran of covertly trying to develop the means to produce nuclear bombs with its uranium enrichment program. Iran, the world's No. 5 crude oil exporter, says its nuclear facilities are part of a peaceful energy program and it would retaliate for any attack on them.

The most recent talks between world powers and Iran failed in January 2011 because of Iran's refusal to suspend its sensitive uranium enrichment work, as demanded by several U.N. resolutions and major powers.

But Iran says it is ready to hold fresh talks with no preconditions. "We will also send a reply to the EU's foreign policy chief (about nuclear talks) today," Baqeri said.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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