Iran calls Natanz atomic site blackout ‘nuclear terrorism’

Iran calls Natanz atomic site blackout ‘nuclear terrorism’
A satellite photo from Planet Labs shows Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility (Planet Labs Inc via AP)

Iran has described a blackout at its underground Natanz atomic facility an act of “nuclear terrorism”, raising regional tensions.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, stopped short of directly blaming anyone for the incident.

Details remained scarce about what happened early on Sunday morning at the facility, which initially was described as a blackout caused by the electrical grid feeding the site.

Centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility (Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran via AP)

“To thwart the goals of this terrorist movement, the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to seriously improve nuclear technology on the one hand and to lift oppressive sanctions on the other hand,” Mr Salehi said, according state TV.

He added: “While condemning this desperate move, the Islamic Republic of Iran emphasises the need for a confrontation by the international bodies and the (International Atomic Energy Agency) against this nuclear terrorism.”

Many Israeli media outlets offered the same assessment that a cyberattack darkened Natanz and damaged a facility that is home to sensitive centrifuges.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin is visiting the region (Evan Vucci/AP)

While the reports offered no sourcing for the evaluation, Israeli media maintains a close relationship with the country’s military and intelligence agencies.

If Israel caused the blackout, it further heightens tensions between the two nations, already engaged in a shadow conflict across the wider Middle East.

It also complicates efforts by the United States, Israel’s main security partner, to re-enter the atomic accord aimed at limiting Tehran’s programme so it cannot pursue a nuclear weapon.

As news of the blackout emerged, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz.

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