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Iran Admits June Explosion At Nuclear Facility Was 'Sabotage'

A satellite image showing a building at Natanz enrichment facility before (R) and after a July 2, 2020 incident.
A satellite image showing a building at Natanz enrichment facility before (R) and after a July 2, 2020 incident.

The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) has confirmed for the first time that the recent destructive blast at Natanz nuclear facility was sabotage.

"The explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility was the result of sabotage operations. Security authorities will announce the reason behind the blast in due time," Behrouz Kamalvandi told the Islamic Republic's Arabic-speaking TV, al-Alam, August 23.

"Security investigations confirm the sabotage nature of this action. What is certain is that there was an explosion in Natanz. However, security officials will announce the details of the explosion and how and with what material it took place in due time," Kamalvandi reiterated.

Iran announced an incident at the Natanz facility on June 2 that destroyed a building housing uranium enrichment centrifuges, but it didn't disclose the cause of the incident. Natanz, 334 kilometers (about 207 miles) south of the Iranian capital city, Tehran, is the center of the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment activities.

At the time, Kamalvandi had merely stated that the damage caused by the explosion at a shed adjacent to the Natanz uranium enrichment center was "significant."

Three days after the devastating blast, Kamalvandi told Iran's official news agency, IRNA, "In the medium term, this accident could slow down development and production."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on August 22 that the organization's Director-General, Rafael Grossi, would travel to Tehran before the world powers meet in Vienna.

The world powers, plus Iran, are scheduled to meet in Vienna on September 1. On Monday, Mr. Grossi is set to arrive in Tehran to pressure Iran to grant IAEA inspectors access to two suspected former atomic sites after a months-long standoff.

Nonetheless, Kamalvandi says that the Islamic Republic is ready to give the IAEA inspectors access to the two suspected sites, provided they raise all their questions at once, receive answers, and close the case.

According to Kamalvandi, one of the suspected centers is around Shahreza in Isfahan province, and the other is near Tehran.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has not opposed access to its nuclear facilities from the beginning. Still, it believes that IAEA's questions should have a legal basis and should be based on serious evidence and documents, Kamalvandi told al Alam TV, adding, "Questions based on espionage-linked allegations, and the like, are not and will not be acceptable at all. Providing access to IAEA is subject to the condition that questions and ambiguities should end forever."

Furthermore, Kamalvandi asserted that when the IAEA has a question from a country, it is the inalienable right of that country to ask the Agency for the basis and documentation of the issue or problems.

Kamalvandi's revelation coincided with the imminent visit of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Director-General to Iran.

Emphasizing that the Islamic Republic of Iran does not have confidential data hidden from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kamalvandi said, "Discussing the safeguards, additional protocol and JCPOA are of the main purpose of the IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi's first visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran."

JCPOA, the joint comprehensive plan of action, is Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Britain, China, France, Russia, the USA, and Germany.

After extending it for four times, Washington withdrew from the deal on May 8, 2018, and reimposed batches of sanctions on the clergy-dominated Iran.

Tehran recently denied IAEA's access to its nuclear facilities in Shahreza and near the Iranian capital city. Following the denial, the IAEA Board of Governors on June 19 adopted a resolution proposed by three European countries reprimanding the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities.

The Agency says there may have been activities on the two suspected sites in the early 2000s that Iran had not previously reported to the IAEA. Tehran, however, has dismissed the allegation.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP