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Iran says 30 arrested in connection with assassination of nuclear scientist

Tehran also reports transfer of enriched uranium to medical research reactor

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — About 30 suspects have been arrested in connection with the assassination last year of a nuclear electronics expert, Iran’s intelligence chief said Sunday

Heidar Moslehi accused Western intelligence agencies — including the CIA, Mossad and MI6 in Britain — of working together to kill Iranian nuclear scientists, part of efforts to derail Iran’s nuclear program. Britain and the U.S. have dismissed Iran’s claims. Israel has remained silent.

Moslehi’s comments, reported by the official IRNA news agency Sunday, gave no other details on the arrests, including whether they are new or among those previously announced.

At least five Iranian nuclear experts have been killed since 2010. In May, Iran hanged a man convicted in the killing of a nuclear physicist in early 2010.

Also Sunday, Iran’s nuclear chief said more domestically produced nuclear fuel has been supplied to a medical research reactor, and said the country could produce nuclear fuel for ships if it wanted.

The 20 percent enriched uranium used in the medical reactor has been a key issue in talks between Iran and world powers over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The West wants Iran to halt production of the 20 percent fuel, which is much closer to weapons grade than the level needed for energy-producing reactors.

Nuclear chief Fereidoun Abbasi said more nuclear fuel was provided Sunday to the Tehran reactor, which produces radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

Iran inserted the first domestically produced nuclear fuel into the reactor in February.

Abbasi said Iran was capable of producing nuclear fuel for ships but has no immediate plans to upgrade the level of its uranium enrichment.

Abbasi said if it decides to, Iran would first declare its need for higher grade enriched nuclear fuel to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

Abbasi’s comments were reported by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

An Iranian parliamentary committee has approved a bill requiring the government to design nuclear-powered merchant ships and provide them with nuclear fuel.

Some lawmakers say Iran should enrich uranium to levels close to weapons grade to produce fuel for proposed nuclear-powered oil tankers.

The U.S. and its allies suspect Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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