Iran named a suspect in the attack on its Natanz nuclear enrichment facility and said he fled the country hours before the incident.
Last Sunday’s alleged sabotage involved a power outage at the underground facility, which houses thousands of centrifuges, apparently caused by an explosion.
The extent of the damage remains unclear, but it sparked a furious backlash in Tehran amid talks with world powers in Vienna about the possibility of the United States re-entering the nuclear deal.
Last week, President Hassan Rouhani declared that Iran would increase nuclear enrichment to 60 percent purity, three times more than ever, in response to the incident, for which the country has so far blamed Israel.
Iranian State TV Report Offers New Details On Natanz Explosion
A report by state television in Iran has named the main suspect as Reza Karimi, 43, and said he was born in the nearby city of Kashan, Iran.
Aside from a passport-style photograph of a man said to be Karimi, the report also showed what appeared to be a “red notice” from Interpol requesting his arrest.
So far, such a notice has not appeared on Interpol’s own public database and Interpol, based in Lyon, France, has not yet responded to the AP’s request for comment.
The television report also said that “necessary actions” were being taken to bring Karimi back to Iran through legal channels, without elaborating. Interpol’s alleged “red notice” listed his foreign travel history including Ethiopia, Kenya, the Netherlands, Qatar, Romania, Turkey, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.
The report does not detail how Karimi would have gained access to one of the safest facilities in the Islamic Republic, which was also badly damaged by an explosion last July. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization had announced the completion of repairs to the site just two days before the latest incident.
The state television report also offered more details on the nature of the incident last weekend, which Iranian officials had variously attributed to a generator failure, a controlled explosion and a cyber attack.
There was a “limited explosion from a small part of the electricity feed path to the centrifuge room,” the report says. “The explosion occurred due to the function of explosive materials and there was no cyber attack.” He added that there were “images” to corroborate this account by the Iranian security services, although he did not show these images.
The report also showed centrifuges in one room, as well as what appeared to be caution tape at the Natanz facility. In one go, a television reporter interviewed an unidentified technician at the site.
“The sound you are hearing is the sound of machines in operation that are thankfully not damaged,” he said. “Many of the centrifuge chains that faced defects are now under control. Some of the work that had been interrupted will get back on track thanks to the uninterrupted efforts of my colleagues. “
Talks continue on possible US return to JCPOA in Vienna
Negotiations on the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action continued in Vienna on Saturday. The 2015 deal, from which former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States in 2018, was aimed at preventing Iran from storing enough enriched uranium to be able to pursue a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
The Islamic Republic continues to insist that its nuclear program is peaceful, despite long-standing convictions to the contrary in the West. Officials had previously suggested that uranium enriched by up to 60 percent could be used for nuclear-powered ships, although Iran currently has no such ships in its navy.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism