Iran on Monday blamed Israel for knocking out power to its Natanz underground nuclear facility, saying the sabotage damaged its centrifuges and vowing to retaliate as tensions between the two longtime foes threatens to jeopardize talks with the Biden administration to re-enter the 2015 nuclear accord.
State-run media in Iran claimed the person who caused the blackout at the key nuclear site used to enrich uranium has been identified and “necessary measures are being taken to arrest this person.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed Israel but added that the event would not jeopardize nuclear talks.
“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 said, state-run media reported.
“But we will take our revenge against the Zionists,” he continued.
Israel has not officially claimed responsibility but Israeli media reported that the country’s Mossad spy unit had carried out a cyberattack on an Iranian nuclear facility.
The outage occurred as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Israel where he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is vocally opposed the nuclear deal.
“My policy as prime minister of Israel is clear: I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel,” Netanyahu said. “And Israel will continue to defend itself against Iran’s aggression and terrorism.”
Members of the Biden administration met with Iranian officials last week in Vienna about re-entering the accord that former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
Austin, speaking with Netanyahu, said the talks “will continue.”
Initially, Iran blamed the blackout at the Natanz facility on an electrical outage but later began referring to it as an attack.
Tehran, which has been breaching provisions of the accord since the US pulled out of it, has insisted that it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes and not for use in nuclear bombs.
Iranian nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said emergency power has been activated at Natanz and “enrichment of uranium has not stopped in the site.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzade said the country’s nuclear experts are assessing the centrifuges and said any that are damaged will be replaced with “advanced ones.”
With Post wires