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AFP
April 14, 2021

Iran, Russia unite against West

World

AFP
April 14, 2021

Iran and Russia united against the United States and Europe Tuesday warning on the eve of new nuclear talks that an attack on the Natanz atomic site and new EU sanctions could harm ongoing negotiations.

Iran charged Monday that its arch-enemy Israel had sabotaged its Natanz uranium enrichment plant and vowed it would take "revenge" and expand its nuclear activities. The latest of a string of incidents to hit Iran’s nuclear programme came just days after talks opened in Vienna on bringing the United States back into a troubled 2015 deal that then US president Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Israel, which did not claim responsibility for the sabotage, is strongly opposed to US President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive the agreement. After talks with his visiting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Mohammed Javad Zarif warned the US it would gain no extra leverage in Vienna through "acts of sabotage" and sanctions.

"The Americans should know that neither sanctions nor acts of sabotage will give them negotiation tools and these acts will only make the situation more difficult for them," Zarif told a joint news conference.

He also hit out at Israel. "If (Israel) thought that they can stop Iran from following up on lifting sanctions from the Iranian people, then they made a very bad gamble. "What they did in Natanz, they thought it would reduce Iran’s leverage" in Vienna talks but "it makes it possible for Iran ... to use any capacity it has at Natanz," he said. Iran would make the enrichment plant "more powerful" by using advanced centrifuges, he added. Unsourced Israeli media reports attributed the Natanz disruption to a "cyber operation" by the Israeli security services. The New York Times, quoting unnamed US and Israeli intelligence officials, also said there had been "an Israeli role" in the attack in which an explosion had "completely destroyed" the power system that fed the plant’s "underground centrifuges".

Quoting another unnamed intelligence source on Tuesday, it added an "explosive device had been smuggled" into the site and "detonated remotely," taking out primary and backup power. The White House said the US "was not involved in any manner".

Lavrov said Moscow still expected Washington to return to the nuclear deal with Tehran, but criticised moves he said complicated the Vienna talks. Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement have been discussing how to lift US sanctions that Trump reimposed when he quit the deal in 2018. They have also been addressing how to bring Iran back into compliance with nuclear commitments it suspended in retaliation for the US withdrawal.