Iran blames Israel for Natanz nuclear plant outage, vows revenge
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[April 12, 2021]
By Parisa Hafezi
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'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... 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 has not formally
commented on 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 in the site."
The incident took place a day after Tehran, which has insisted it wants
only peaceful nuclear energy not nuclear bombs from the enrichment
process, launched new advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz.
"All of the centrifuges that went out of circuit at Natanz site were of
the IR-1 type," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a news
conference, referring to Iran's first generation of enrichment machines
more vulnerable to outages.
"Our nuclear experts are assessing the damage but I can assure you that
Iran will replace damaged uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz with
[to top of second column]
Iran blames regional arch-foe Israel for Sunday's incident at the
Natanz nuclear site and will take its revenge, state TV quoted
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying on Monday. Gloria
Modernised centrifuges can refine uranium to higher fissile purity
at a much faster rate, helping accumulate a stockpile that could
shorten Iran's route to a nuclear weapon, if it chose to develop
them, than the IR-1 that still predominates in Natanz's production
The 2015 deal only allows Iran to enrich with up to 5,060 IR-1
machines, in a plant designed to house around 50,000, but it has
begun enriching at Natanz with hundreds of advanced centrifuges
including the IR-2m.
Despite strong Israeli opposition, U.S. President Joe Biden's
administration is committed to rejoining the deal if the Islamic
Republic returns to full compliance with restrictions on nuclear
Khatibzadeh said nuclear talks would resume on Wednesday in Vienna.
Diplomatic headway has been made, delegates said on Friday. Iran
insists all U.S. sanctions crippling its oil-based economy must be
lifted first before it stops accelerating enrichment and restores
caps on the process.
At a ceremony on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
made no direct reference to Natanz, though said: "The fight against
Iran's nuclearisation...is a massive task."
There have been sporadic episodes of sabotage and outages at Iranian
nuclear installations for over a decade, for which Tehran has blamed
Israel, which regards the Iranian uranium enrichment drive as a
menace to its existence.
In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to have been
developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after it
was used to attack Natanz, causing damaging breakdowns of centrifuge
cascades that refine uranium.
In July last year, a fire broke out at Natanz that Iran said was an
attempt by Israel to sabotage its enrichment activity.
Iran also accused Israel of responsibility for last November's
ambush killing outside Tehran of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was
regarded by Western intelligence services as the mastermind of a
covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme. Israel has neither
confirmed nor denied involvement.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Francois Murphy
in ViennaWriting by Parisa HafeziEditing by Mark Heinrich)
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