Iran blames regional arch-foe Israel for a sabotage incident at its key Natanz nuclear site and will exact revenge, state TV quoted its foreign minister as saying.
Iran’s semi-official Nournews website 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,” the website reported, without giving details about the person.
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 U.S. 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…They have publicly said that they will not allow this. But we will take our revenge against the Zionists,” Zarif was quoted by state TV as saying.
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.
The incident took place a day after Tehran, which has insisted it wants only peaceful nuclear energy not nuclear weapons, started new advanced enrichment centrifuges at Natanz.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that the incident could be deemed an “act against humanity”, adding it had caused “no contamination or casualties” at the site.
“Our nuclear experts are assessing the damage but I can assure you that Iran will replace damaged uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz with advanced ones,” Khatibzadeh said.
“All of the centrifuges that went out of circuit at Natanz site were of the IR1 type,” he said, referring to Iran’s first generation of enrichment machines more vulnerable to outages.