The news from International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, who just returned from Tehran, comes just a day before Iran and six world powers meet in Baghdad for negotiations and could present a significant turning point in the heated dispute over Iran's nuclear intentions.
The six nations hope the talks will result in an agreement by the Islamic Republic to stop enriching uranium to a higher level that could be turned quickly into the fissile core of nuclear arms. Iran insists its nuclear program is only for power and medical applications, not weapons.
Today, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Iranian scientists had inserted a domestically made fuel rod, which contains pellets of 20 per cent enriched uranium, into the core of a research nuclear reactor in Tehran.
The advance would be another step in achieving proficiency in the entire nuclear fuel cycle. Iran said in January that it had produced the first nuclear fuel rod, and that it had to find a way to make them because Western sanctions prohibit their purchase from foreign markets.
By compromising on the IAEA probe, Iranian negotiators in Baghdad could argue that the onus was now on the other side to show some flexibility and temper its demands.
Although Amano's trip and talks in Baghdad are formally separate, Iran hopes progress with the IAEA can boost its chances tomorrow in pressing the US and Europe to roll back sanctions that have hit Iran's critical oil exports and blacklisted the country from international banking networks.
It was unclear, though, how far the results achieved by Amano would serve that purpose, with him returning without the two sides signing the deal, despite his upbeat comments.