By Jeremy Herb - 02/15/12 04:12 PM EST
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Wednesday that Iran had loaded its own fuel rods into the core of a nuclear reactor in Tehran, further escalating tensions between Iran and the West over its nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad also said Wednesday that Iran had activated 3,000 new centrifuges, and an Iranian nuclear official said the country plans to start producing yellow cake next year, Iran’s PressTV reported.
The developments advancing Iran’s nuclear program will add fuel to the talk over whether the United States or Israel should attack Iran to derail its nuclear program. The West believes Iran is seeking to produce nuclear weapons, while Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy production.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was cited in a report last month stating that he believed there’s a strong possibility Israel will attack Iran in the spring, which Panetta has not commented on.
Panetta said Tuesday that he and President Obama do not think Israel has made a decision yet on whether to attack Iran.
The tensions between Israel and Iran spiked after another Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated last month and Israeli diplomats were attacked this week in Georgia and India. Iran has accused Israel of assassinating its scientists, and Israel accused Iran of being behind the latest attacks.
Ahmadinejad announced the new nuclear developments in a ceremony Wednesday at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Iran’s official Islamic Republican News Agency said.
Ahmadinejad also said that the country would provide “full protection” to its nuclear scientists, according to PressTV.
In addition, Iran cut its oil exports to six European countries ahead of an oil embargo the European Union had enacted last month that’s set to take effect in July.