“One of the strong theories is based on the involvement of internal agents in the incident,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters at a press conference, according to the Iranian news agency. of work (ILNA).
“The matter is under serious consideration by security organizations across the country and we will announce the results once things are clear.”
This is the first time that an Iranian official has specifically pointed out the possibility of internal work for the explosion.
At the end of August, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization confirmed that the damage to the facility was the result of “sabotage”.
“But how this explosion took place and with what materials … will be announced by security officials in due course,” spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said at the time, citing “security reasons” for not disclosing more information.
‘Sabotage is certain’
In early September, Kamalvandi announced that Natanz’s saboteurs “had been identified” but had refrained from discussing further details, particularly whether internal agents were complicit.
On Tuesday, Rabiei also reiterated that “sabotage is certain”, but the incident has yet to be investigated due to its complexity.
The desert site of Natanz, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities regularly monitored by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
Following the explosion, international media reported that Israel may have been behind the attack. Israel has been deliberately vague, neither confirming nor denying its involvement while stressing the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Anyone can suspect us at all times, but I don’t think that’s correct,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said a few days after the attack.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also said that “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities,” adding to that end: “We are taking steps that are better not to say. “
The September announcement that Iran knows the saboteurs behind the Natanz explosion came a week after IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the country.
The trip was a success, which led to Iran granting access to two suspected former nuclear sites that the UN watchdog wanted to inspect.
“In this current context, based on the analysis of the information available to the IAEA, the IAEA has no other questions to Iran and other requests for access to places other than those declared by Iran, ”IAEA and Iran officials said in a joint statement. following the visit.
In a speech to the 64th session of the IAEA General Conference on Monday, the President of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, referred to the Natanz incident.
“These malicious acts must be condemned by the agency and the member states,” he said via video conference, adding that “Iran reserves the right to protect its facilities and take the necessary measures against any threat, if applicable. ”
Salehi also urged the UN watchdog not to compromise “its impartiality, independence and professionalism”.
Iran, the UN and the United States are locked in a major disagreement over the historic 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in May 2018.
The United States said on Sunday that it had reinstated all UN sanctions against Iran, an announcement that was flatly rejected by the UN Security Council as lacking in legal basis.
The United States is trying to indefinitely extend an arms embargo against Iran that is due to expire in October as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the official name for the nuclear deal.
Iran, which has always maintained that it has never researched nuclear weapons, accepted the nuclear deal that removed all UN sanctions in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
The United States reneged on the deal, unilaterally imposing a harsh campaign of sanctions that hit almost every productive sector of the Iranian economy. US sanctions have also targeted Iranian officials and organizations.
In response, starting exactly one year after the imposition of US sanctions and the failure of other parties to secure the economic benefits promised to Iran under the deal, Iran has started to gradually reduce its nuclear commitments. .