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Iran blames Israel for Natanz nuclear plant outage

Iran blames Israel for Natanz nuclear plant outage
April 12, 2021

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran on Monday accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging its key Natanz nuclear site and vowed revenge for an attack that appeared to be latest episode in a long-running covert war.

Iran said the person who caused an electricity outage in one of the production halls at the underground uranium enrichment plant had been identified. “Necessary measures are being taken to arrest this person,” Iranian state media reported, without giving further details.

The incident occurred amid diplomatic efforts by Iran and the United States to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, an accord Israel fiercely opposed, after former US President Donald Trump abandoned it three years ago.

Last week, Iran and the global powers held what they described as “constructive” talks to salvage the deal, which has unravelled as Iran has breached its limits on sensitive uranium enrichment since Trump reimposed harsh sanctions on Tehran.

Iranian authorities described the incident a day earlier as an act of “nuclear terrorism” and said Tehran reserved the right to take action against the perpetrators.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif explicitly blamed Israel. “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions... We will not fall into their trap...We will not allow this act of sabotage to affect the nuclear talks,” Zarif was quoted by state TV as saying.

“But we will take our revenge against the Zionists.”

Multiple Israeli media outlets have quoted unnamed intelligence sources as saying the country’s Mossad spy service carried out a successful sabotage operation at the underground Natanz complex, potentially setting back enrichment work there by months.

Israel - whose existence Iran does not recognise - has not formally commented on the incident. The White House said the United States was not involved in the attack and had no comment on speculation about the cause of the incident.

Iranian nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said an emergency power system had been activated at Natanz to offset the outage. “Enrichment of uranium has not stopped at the site.”

ADVANCED CENTRIFUGES

A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said the facility was hit by an explosion.

“It is a power grid issue. The explosion was not powerful enough to destroy everything but the ceiling collapsed in one of the control rooms,” Kamalvandi told state TV.