Iran says probing if IAEA cameras had role in alleged Israeli attack on nuke site

Tehran’s envoy to Britain asks UN nuclear watchdog to be patient with investigation, after refusing to let surveillance equipment damaged in strike at Karaj be repaired

The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)
The alleged Karaj centrifuge parts plant near Karaj, Iran, seen in a photo posted online by Google user Edward Majnoonian, in May 2019. (Screenshot/Google Maps)

Iran has said it was investigating the possibility that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s cameras played a part in an alleged Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear facility, suggesting this was the reason for Tehran’s refusal of requests to repair the damaged surveillance equipment there.

“There was a sabotage there by Israel and some cameras were damaged and there was some investigation going on,” Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mohsen Baharvand, said during a briefing in London on Friday, according to Bloomberg.

He added that Iranian judiciary investigators looked into whether the cameras may have been used to aid the attack. “We just asked IAEA to wait for a time for that investigation to be over,” Baharvand said.

Last month, the United Nations nuclear watchdog “categorically” denied its cameras were used in the June drone attack that reportedly hit the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company in the city of Karaj, northwest of Tehran, after Iran said it was investigating the possibility.

The IAEA “Director General categorically rejects the idea that Agency cameras played a role in assisting any third party to launch an attack on the TESA Karaj complex,” a report by the IAEA seen by AFP read.

Iran told the IAEA that “its ‘security and judicial authorities’ were investigating whether the terrorists have used the Agency cameras to launch an attack on the complex,’” the report in November said.

In this file photo, taken on September 20, 2021, Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), attends the IAEA General Conference, an annual meeting of all the IAEA member states, at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

According to the IAEA , the blast destroyed one of its cameras at the site and heavily damaged another. It is unknown how many cameras are there.

In September, Iran acknowledged that it had removed several damaged surveillance cameras installed by the IAEA at the Karaj site. It has since refused requests to repair the surveillance equipment damaged in the June attack.

In July, Iran accused Israel of mounting the sabotage attack on the site, which makes components for machines used to enrich uranium. Without disclosing details of the assault, Iranian authorities acknowledged the strike had damaged the building.

The attack on Karaj was just the latest in a series of suspected assaults targeting Iran’s nuclear program that have heightened regional hostilities in recent months, as world powers attempt to salvage the now-collapsed nuclear deal. Israel is widely believed to have carried out the sabotage, though it has not claimed responsibility.

Baharvand’s comments Friday came as negotiations to revive a 2015 landmark agreement scaling back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief resumed in Vienna.

That deal started to fall apart in 2018 when the United States withdrew from it and reinstated sanctions. Iran in turn again started to ramp up its nuclear activities in breach of the accord.

The pact sealed in Vienna in 2015, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was meant to rein in Iran’s nuclear program in return for loosened economic sanctions.

Meanwhile, Israeli and American military leaders are set to discuss possible military drills to practice destroying Iranian nuclear facilities in a potential worst-case scenario, a senior US official said.

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