Americas

US denies involvement in Natanz nuclear site 'sabotage'

White House says Washington 'was not involved in any manner' after alleged attack hits Iranian nuclear facility

Michael Hernandez   | 12.04.2021
US denies involvement in Natanz nuclear site 'sabotage'

WASHINGTON

The US denied involvement on Monday in an alleged act of "sabotage" targeting Iran's underground Natanz nuclear site that reportedly hobbled some of the facility's centrifuges.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington "was not involved in any manner," later adding that the Biden administration remains focused on nuclear talks that are set to resume on Wednesday with Iran and the other parties of the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Psaki said the US has not received "any indication that attendance at the discussions" has changed following last weekend's apparent attack, in a likely reference to Iran.

The talks have been a showcase in shuttle diplomacy with the US and Iran not meeting directly with one another and instead using the other JCPOA parties to serve as intermediaries.

Tensions between Iran and its long-time adversary Israel have escalated in recent months, especially amid diplomatic efforts led by US President Joe Biden to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Israel has been a staunch critic of the accord, and lauded former President Donald Trump's 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed Israel for this weekend’s attack on Natanz, vowing to “take revenge” for what Iranian officials are claiming was an act of “sabotage.”

Describing the ongoing nuclear negotiations as “sensitive”, the top diplomat called for protecting the country’s nuclear facilities and scientists.

After leaving the deal, Trump went on to impose biting economic sanctions that imperiled the Islamic Republic's economy, prompting Tehran to retaliate by taking steps away from its nuclear commitments.

The US and Iran have been at a months-long impasse since Biden assumed office in January over who should first return to compliance with the JCPOA, with Tehran maintaining the US should first lift sanctions before it returns to compliance.

Last week's indirect talks between the US and Iran concluded with a senior State Department official telling reporters this week's negotiations would be focused on "clarifying what steps both sides need to take to come back into compliance."

"Our hope is that we’ll see from Iran a greater indication of what they’re prepared to do and greater indication that they will take a constructive attitude in getting there," the official said.

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