Saturday, September 18, 2021

Iran says nuclear facility hit by ‘terrorism’ a day after debuting new equipment

Israel public radio cites intelligence sources as saying that Israel’s Mossad spy agency had carried out a cyber attack at the site.

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A nuclear facility in Iran has been hit by what top officials described as “sabotage” a day after it unveiled new uranium enrichment equipment.

Tehran did not say who was behind the “terrorist act”, which caused a power failure at the Natanz complex south of Tehran on Sunday.

Israel’s Kan public radio cited intelligence sources, whose nationality it did not disclose, as saying that Israel’s Mossad spy agency had carried out a cyber attack at the site. The Haaretz newspaper said the same thing.

Israel has not commented on the incident directly but in recent days it has been more vocal in its warnings about Iran’s nuclear programme.

Earlier on Sunday, the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation (AEOI) had said that a problem with the electrical distribution grid of the Natanz site had caused an incident, Iranian media reported.

The spokesman, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said the incident caused no casualties or contamination.

Iranian media later reported that Kamalvandi had an accident while visiting the Natanz site, “suffering a broken head and leg”. The reports did not elaborate on the cause of the accident.

The facility, located in the desert in the central province of Isfahan, is the centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme and is monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.

The latest incident comes as diplomatic efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal – abandoned by the US under the Trump administration in 2018 – have resumed.

On Saturday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated new centrifuges at the Natanz site in a ceremony that was broadcast live on television.

Centrifuges are needed to produce enriched uranium, which can be used to make reactor fuel or nuclear weapons.

The upgrade represented another breach of the country’s undertakings in the 2015 deal, which only permits Iran to produce and store limited quantities of enriched uranium to be used to produce fuel for commercial power plants.

Later, state TV read out a statement by AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi, in which he said: “Condemning this despicable move, the Islamic Republic of Iran emphasises the need for the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to deal with this nuclear terrorism.”

“Iran reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators,” he added.

The IAEA said it was aware of the reports of an incident but would not comment.

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