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Iran nuclear: State TV names suspect in Natanz attack

image copyrightReuters

image captionIranian state TV broadcast this image of the man it wants in connection with the attack

Iran’s state TV has named a man that intelligence authorities allege was responsible for an attack at the Natanz nuclear site last weekend.

Reza Karimi fled Iran shortly before the blast, Network One said, showing a man’s photo on what it said was an Interpol wanted poster.

Interpol said it could not confirm that Mr Karimi was on its red list of wanted fugitives.

Iran has blamed Israel for the attack and stepped up its nuclear activities.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement, but Israel public radio cited intelligence sources as saying it was a Mossad cyber-operation.

The attack came shortly before Iran was due to take part in talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

The agreement is designed to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon, something it denies wanting to do. Israel opposes the deal, saying it will not prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power.

The agreement, which saw Iran limit its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief, was in danger of collapse after former US President Donald Trump abandoned it in 2018.

Iran’s announcement it would produce 60%-enriched uranium following last Sunday’s attack was a further breach of the nuclear agreement, under which it is permitted to enrich uranium only to 3.67% purity to make reactor fuel.

What happened at Natanz?

It is not entirely clear how the attack unfolded. However, Alireza Zakani, head of the Iranian parliament’s research centre, said thousands of machines used to refine nuclear material were destroyed or damaged at Natanz.

The attack took place in a facility up to 50m (165ft) underground, another official said.

image copyrightEPA

image captionThe Natanz facility seen here in 2005

On Saturday, Iranian state television announced that the intelligence ministry had identified “Reza Karimi, the perpetrator of this sabotage”.

“Necessary steps are under way for his arrest and return to the country through legal channels,” it added.

The channel also showed footage of the damaged centrifuges.

But asked if Mr Karimi was on its red notice, Interpol declined to comment “on specific cases or individuals”.

Interpol’s website shows no red notice for anyone named Reza Karimi.

Can the nuclear deal be rescued?

The talks aiming at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, which began on Thursday in the Austrian capital, Vienna, have reportedly made progress.

However, Iran’s chief negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, told state media “the path ahead is not an easy one and there are some serious disagreements”.

China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Iran are all taking part. The US is not, although a delegation is in a hotel across the road, according to news agency Reuters.

media captionIran’s nuclear programme: What’s been happening at its key nuclear sites?

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