Iran charged Monday that its arch-enemy Israel was behind an attack on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant and vowed it would take “revenge” and ramp up its nuclear activities.
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) said a “small explosion” had hit the plant’s electricity distribution centre Sunday in what the foreign ministry called an Israeli act of “terrorism”.
The latest of a string of incidents hitting Iran’s nuclear programme came days after talks resumed in Vienna to salvage the battered 2015 Iranian nuclear deal that former US president Donald Trump abandoned.
His successor Joe Biden wants to revive the accord between Iran and six world powers, which places limits on Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for relief from punishing economic sanctions.
Israel strongly opposes the nuclear deal and has vowed to stop Iran from building an atomic bomb — a goal Tehran has always denied pursuing.
Iran initially reported a power blackout had hit the Natanz site Sunday, a day after it announced it had started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges banned under the deal.
Israel did not claim responsibility for the incident, but unsourced media reports in the country attributed it to the Israeli security services carrying out a “cyber operation”.
The New York Times, quoting unnamed US and Israeli intelligence officials, also said there had been “an Israeli role” in the attack in which an explosion had “completely destroyed” the power system that fed the site’s “underground centrifuges”.
The White House Monday said the US “was not involved in any manner”, in the attack.
“We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
– Israeli ‘terrorism’ –
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while hosting US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Jerusalem, reiterated his stance that Israel will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, without mentioning the Natanz incident.