(EFE).- Iran’s foreign minister on Monday blamed Israel for the blackout at the Natanz nuclear facility and said Tehran would retaliate.

Mohamad Javad Zarif said the alleged Israeli cyberattack on the facility was designed to “take vengeance” on Iran’s successful strategy to lift international sanctions, according to state news agency IRNA.

Israeli media on Sunday suggested that Israel’s intelligence service Mossad was behind the attack.

Citing Western intelligence services, television Channels 11 and 13 said the damage caused was greater than Iran was reporting.

The report coincides with a change in the description of the incident by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which at first called it an “incident” that did not cause any damage, but later changed its stance to call it “nuclear terrorism.”

If the report is confirmed, this would be the second attack of its kind in less than a year against Natanz after sabotage carried out in July 2020, with assorted sources pointing to Israel as the author.

Sunday’s incident came not long after the signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal met in Vienna in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the accord, which saw Tehran swap in much of its nuclear program for a partial lifting of international sanctions.

Donald Trump’s White House withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran. In response, Iranian authorities gradually begin to ramp up their uranium enrichment program.

President Joe Biden, who was vice-president when the deal was drawn up, has said he wants to revive the pact. Complicating such a move is the tricky task of addressing the fallout of the soaring tensions between Tehran and Washington during Trump’s tenure.

Israel is a firm detractor of the pact and claims Tehran is a destabilizing nuclear threat in the region.

Tehran blamed Israel for the assassination of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November last year.

Zarif on Monday said Iran would respond to Israel by making more progress in its nuclear program.

The country on Saturday announced that it had started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz.

In accordance with the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran is permitted to use its first-generation centrifuges and to produce uranium enriched to the 3.67 percent level, but Tehran has exceeded both limits as its response to the US sanctions.

The Natanz nuclear facility is a sprawling complex covering 100,000 square meters underground. It is located to the north of the historic city of Isfahan. EFE

© 2021 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.


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