Iran says Israel behind sabotage at nuclear facility to disrupt Vienna talks
People's Daily Online
(Xinhua) 13:32, April 13, 2021
TEHRAN, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Iran on Monday accused Israel of plotting an incident at an Iranian nuclear facility to disrupt Iran's efforts to have U.S. sanctions lifted in the recent Vienna nuclear talks.
A blackout struck the Natanz enrichment facility in central Iran on Sunday morning. Media in Iran widely reported that Israel's Mossad intelligence agency was behind a cyberattack that caused the incident.
Israel "wants to take revenge on the Iranian people for their success in lifting the unjust sanctions, but we will not allow it," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by official news agency IRNA as saying on Monday.
Zarif said that the centrifuges damaged at the Natanz facility were the first generation, and will be replaced with more advanced devices, which will strengthen Iran's position in the negotiations aiming to have U.S. sanctions against Iran lifted.
Iran, Zarif warned, will not allow Israel to prevent the sanctions from being lifted, and will "take revenge on" Israel for the incident in Natanz.
Meanwhile, Sunday's incident was "a bold act of nuclear terrorism on the Iranian soil," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh was quoted by Press TV as saying on Monday.
Ali Akbar Saleh, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), on Sunday also described the incident as an act of "nuclear terrorism."
"Necessary measures are being taken to arrest the main element behind the disruption in the power system of Natanz complex," Iran's Nour News reported, citing a security source.
The incident at the nuclear facility came a day after 164 IR-6 semi-industrial centrifuges were injected with gas and became fully operational at a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, and 30 IR-6S centrifuges entered the first phase of gas injection at the same plant.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel will never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
"We both agree that Iran must never possess nuclear weapons. My policy as prime minister of Israel is clear: I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability," Netanyahu said in joint statements with visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
In November 2020, Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed by an armed attack on his car. At that time, Tehran held Israel accountable for the assassination.
In July 2020, Iran said an "incident" affected a shed under construction at the Natanz complex. Later, AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi described the incident as "an act of sabotage."
A decade ago, the Stuxnet cyberattack, revealed in 2010, delivered a blow to the nuclear program of Iran. Although neither country has openly admitted responsibility, the computer worm is widely believed to be a cyberweapon built jointly by the United States and Israel.
Earlier this month, Iran confirmed an explosion in the country's commercial ship Saviz in the Red Sea. Abolfazl Shekarchi, spokesman of the Iranian Armed Forces, said on Friday that Israel and the United States are suspected to be behind the recent attack on an Iranian ship in the Red Sea.
The New York Times called the attack against the Iranian ship as "an escalation of the shadowy naval skirmishing" between Iran and Israel, which has gone on for two years and opened "a new maritime front in a regional shadow war that had previously played out by land and air."
PROSPECTS OF NUCLEAR DEAL
These recent developments have also complicated efforts to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as nuclear talks have been held in Vienna this month, with the lifting of sanctions on Iran and nuclear implementation measures topping the agenda.
Iran gradually stopped implementing parts of its JCPOA commitments from May 2019, one year after the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the agreement and re-imposed sanctions on Iran.
As the Biden administration has expressed its desire to rejoin the nuclear agreement, Israel, a staunch opponent of Iran, has repeatedly voiced against Washington returning to the JCPOA.
Wang Jin, an associate professor at Northwest University of China, told Xinhua that Israel's recent actions against Iran are aimed at exerting strategic pressure on Iran's regional influence and Vienna nuclear meetings.
"At a time when the international community hopes to put the Iran nuclear deal back on track, Israel tried to deteriorate regional relations, block the return to the Iran nuclear deal, and create a favorable regional landscape for Israel," he said.
The White House said on Monday that the United States was not involved in the attack on Iran's Natanz nuclear facility.
"The United States was not involved in any manner," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during the daily briefing, adding that Washington is focused on discussions scheduled this Wednesday in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
In Iran, voices asking the government to halt the Vienna talks were clear heard after the incident. In response, Zarif called on the Iranian people not to "fall in a trap" set up by Israel.
Similarly, Iranian Students News Agency on Monday published an opinion piece titled "Let us not walk into the trap set by Iran's enemies."
Their goal is "to block the normalization of Iran's relations with the world, the reduction of economic pressure and the continuation of the security-building project for Iran," it said.
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