TEHRAN: Iran charged on 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 Organisation of Iran (AEOI) said a “small explosion” had hit the plant’s electricity distribution centre on Sunday in what the foreign ministry labelled 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 a group of world powers, which places limits on the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme in return for relief from biting economic sanctions.

Israel strongly opposes the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and has vowed to stop it from building an atomic bomb -- a goal Tehran has always strongly denied pursuing.

Iran initially reported a power blackout had hit the Natanz site on 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 which fed the site’s “underground centrifuges”.

‘Terrorism’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while hosting US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin in Jerusalem, reiterated on Monday his stance that Israel will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, without mentioning the Natanz incident.

“I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel, and Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s aggression and terrorism,” he said.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Khatibzadeh earlier vowed that Iran’s response to the Natanz incident would be to take “revenge on the Zionist regime” when and where Tehran chooses.

“Of course the Zionist regime, with this action, tried to take revenge on the people of Iran for their patience and wise attitude regarding the lifting of sanctions,” he said. The head of the AEOI, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that “this incident was certainly sabotage”, state news agency IRNA reported.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2021

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