Iran FM: Israel Made 'Very Bad Gamble' by Sabotaging Natanz Site

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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Tehran, Iran, today.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Tehran, Iran, today. Credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/ REUTERS

Iran's top diplomat said on Tuesday that an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility which it blames on Israel was a "very bad gamble" that would strengthen Tehran's hand in talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

Tehran has said an explosion on Sunday at its key nuclear site was an act of sabotage by arch-foe Israel and vowed revenge for an attack that appeared to be latest episode in a long-running covert war. Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognize, has not formally commented on the incident.

"Israel played a very bad gamble if it thought that the attack will weaken Iran's hand in the nuclear talks," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart in Tehran.

"On the contrary, it will strengthen our position."

Iran and the global powers held what they described as constructive talks in Vienna last week to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord, which Israel fiercely opposed, after the United States under former president Donald Trump abandoned it three years ago.

U.S. President Joe Biden is committed to rejoining the deal if Iran returns to full compliance with restrictions on nuclear fuel production.

On Tuesday morning, the New York Times reported that the explosion at Natanz was caused by an explosive device that was smuggled into the plant and detonated remotely. 

Citing an unnamed intelligence official, the report said that the explosion, which has been attributed by foreign media to Israel, damaged Natanz's primary and backup electrical systems. 

In an interview with state television, the head of the Iranian parliament's energy committee, said Monday that "The enemy's plot was very beautiful" from a scientific standpoint. "They thought about this and used their experts and planned the explosion so both the central power and the emergency power cable would be damaged."

Electricity was restored at the plant and uranium enrichment has not ceased, Ali Akbar Salehi, who leads the Atomic Energy Organization said. "A large portion of the enemy's sabotage can be restored, and this train cannot be stopped," he said to Iranian media Monday. But the plant is still not running close to full capacity.

"I assure you that in near future more advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges will be placed in the Natanz facility," Zarif told Tuesday's news conference.

The Natanz facility, which is located in the desert in the central province of Isfahan, is the centerpiece of Iran's uranium enrichment program and monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog. The attack, which Kamalvandi said had no casualties, was reported a day after Tehran launched new, advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges there.

The United States said Monday that it was not involved in the attack, which Iran blamed on Israel. "The U.S. was not involved in any manner," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing. "We have nothing to add on speculations about the causes or impact."

Some U.S. officials did express concern that the Natanz explosion will cause the Iranians to increase their clandestine nuclear activities.

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