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Iranian official suggests 'saboteurs' in U.N. nuclear agency

September 18, 2012 | 10:35 am

AbbasiTEHRAN -- The Iranian nuclear agency chief said explosive blasts cut off power to an underground nuclear facility in August, publicly making suggestions of sabotage before the country headed into a meeting with world powers over its disputed nuclear program.

Fereydoon Abbasi told a meeting of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency Monday in Vienna that power lines from the city of Qom to the Fordow nuclear complex had been cut using explosives on Aug. 17. The same happened to its Natanz facility, the official said without giving the date.

The Iranian nuclear chief went on to say that “terrorists and saboteurs” may have infiltrated the U.N. agency to make decisions covertly. Inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  had asked to visit the facility a day after the explosions, he said.

"Doesn't this inspection have any connection to the detonation?" Abbasi was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students News Agency, implying that inspectors were seeking to assess the resulting damage after the attack.

Though Abbasi did not accuse anyone in particular, Iran has blamed Israel and the United States for the assassinations of its nuclear scientists and computer viruses targeting its atomic facilities in the past.

When asked by reporters in Vienna to elaborate on the alleged explosions targeting Fordow, the Iranian nuclear agency chief said the attempted act of sabotage was stopped "using backup batteries and diesel generators," preventing disruption of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, the Associated Press reported.

The suspicious words against the U.N. nuclear agency followed a report by the watchdog group late last month finding Iran had doubled the number of centrifuges operating in its underground Fordow facility. The news added to U.S. and Israeli concerns that Iran has been ramping up its nuclear program as negotiations stall.

Yukiya Amano, general director of the IAEA, said Tuesday that it was essential for Iran to fully cooperate with the agency. Amano did not address the allegations raised Monday by Abbasi but said he had met with the Iranian on Monday and that negotiators were ready to meet again with Iran in the near future.

The accusations also came ahead of a planned face-to-face meeting Tuesday in Istanbul, Turkey, with the six world powers that have been trying to reach agreement with Iran over its nuclear activities.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, but Western powers suspect the country is trying to gain the capability to make a nuclear weapon. Talks with the six countries -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and China -- have been deadlocked since the spring, when an Iranian offer to only enrich uranium to a low level fell short of their demands.

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-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Fereydoon Abbasi, head of the Iranian nuclear agency, addresses the media during a news conference in Vienna on Monday. Credit: Ronald Zak / Associated Press 

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