Iran: Sabotage Could Hurt Nuke Talks 04/13 06:14
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iran's foreign minister warned Tuesday
that a weekend attack on its main nuclear enrichment site at Natanz could hurt
ongoing negotiations over its tattered atomic deal with world powers.
Those talks are aimed at finding a way for the United States to re-enter the
agreement, the goal of which is to limit Iran's enrichment of uranium in
exchange relief on sanctions.
The U.S. has insisted it had nothing to do with Sunday's sabotage at the
Natanz nuclear facility Instead, Israel is widely believed to have carried out
the assault that damaged centrifuges, though it has not claimed it. But
Mohammad Javad Zarif still issued a warning to Washington.
"Americans should know that neither sanctions nor sabotage actions would
provide them with an instrument for talks," Zarif said in Tehran alongside
visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. "They should know that these
actions would only make the situation difficult for them."
Kayhan, the hard-line Tehran newspaper, urged Iran to "walk out of the
Vienna talks, suspend all nuclear commitments, retaliate against Israel and
identify and dismantle the domestic infiltration network behind the sabotage."
"Despite evidence that shows the role of the U.S. as main instigator of
nuclear sabotage against Iran, unfortunately some statesmen, by purging the
U.S. of responsibility, (aid) Washington's crimes against the people of Iran,"
the paper said in Tuesday's editions.
While Kayhan is a small-circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein
Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has
been described as an adviser to him in the past.
Such a walkout remains unlikely as the administration of President Hassan
Rouhani, whose main diplomatic achievement was the 2015 accord, hopes to get
the U.S. to rejoin it and provide desperately needed sanctions relief. However,
pressure does appear to be growing within Iran's theocracy over how to respond
to the attack.
The talks in Vienna -- among Iran, world powers still in the deal and the
U.S. -- are aimed at reviving America's role in the agreement that former
President Donald Trump abandoned and lifting the sanctions he imposed. Iran, in
turn, would return to the limits set by the deal and dilute its growing
stockpile of uranium -- some of which has been enriched up to a short step away
from weapons-grade levels.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, though the West and the
International Atomic Energy Agency say Tehran had an organized military nuclear
program up until the end of 2003. However, the deal prevents it from having
enough of a uranium stockpile to be able to pursue a nuclear weapon.
Rouhani met later Tuesday with Lavrov and stressed the importance of all
parties returning to the deal. Russia is a member of the nuclear deal.
"We are neither ready to accept less than that, nor are we after achieving
more than that," he said.
Details remained scarce about what happened at Natanz. The event was
initially described only as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding
above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls -- but later Iranian
officials began referring to it as an attack. Israeli media, which has close
ties with the military and intelligence services of that country, have
described the sabotage as a cyberattack, without offering evidence or sourcing
to support that.
The extent of the damage at Natanz also remains unclear, though Iran's
Foreign Ministry said it damaged some of Iran's first-generation IR-1
centrifuges, the workhorse of its nuclear program. A former Iranian
Revolutionary Guard chief said Tuesday that the assault set off a fire while a
civilian nuclear program spokesman mentioned a "possible minor explosion."
In remarks aired late Monday by state television, the former head of the
country's civilian nuclear arm called the attack's design "very beautiful." It
appeared to target both the power grid at Natanz, as well as the facility's
emergency backup power, Fereydoun Abbasi said.
Abbasi said a similar attack targeted Iran's underground Fordo facility in
2012 with two explosions: one 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) away at a power
station and the other at Fordo's emergency battery system.
"We had predicted that, and we were using a separate power grid," Abbasi
said. "They hit but nothing happened for our machines."