Iran's top diplomat on Monday accused Israel of being responsible for a mysterious electrical blackout at its underground Natanz atomic facility.
The accusation from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif comes as world powers and Tehran have renewed diplomatic efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal exited by former President Donald Trump. Talks are taking place in Vienna.
"The Zionists want to take revenge on the Iranian people for their success in lifting the oppressive sanctions, but we will not allow it and we will take revenge on the Zionists themselves," Zarif said in comments carried by Iran's official IRNA news agency.
The Natanz outage happened Sunday. The head of Iran's civilian nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, blamed "nuclear terrorism" but stopped short of directly pointing the finger at Israel. Salehi said Monday that the incident had not significantly disrupted uranium enrichment at the site, which Iran claims amid much international skepticism is used for civilian purposes only.
Israel has not commented on the allegation.
For months, however, Israel has sounded warnings about Iran's nuclear activities and voiced its strong opposition to resuming the deal. Multiple Israeli media outlets reported that the incident was the result of a cyberattack aimed at sabotaging the site.
Still, there were few details about what happened early Sunday at the facility. The incident has been described as a blackout caused by the electrical grid feeding its above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls.
Iranian state media said a "main perpetrator" had been identified, but no other details were provided, including whether arrests had been made.
"The answer for Natanz is to take revenge against Israel," Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said. "Israel will receive its answer through its own path."
He did not elaborate.
Israel and Iran are archenemies.
Natanz has been targeted by sabotage in the past. The Stuxnet computer virus, discovered in 2010 and widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, once disrupted and destroyed Iranian centrifuges at Natanz amid an earlier period of Western fears about Tehran’s nuclear program. Natanz also suffered a mysterious explosion at its advanced centrifuge assembly plant in July.
Iran also blamed Israel for the killing in November of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian scientist whom Israel said masterminded the Islamic Republic’s now-defunct covert military nuclear program.
"Let's be clear about the purpose of these latest Israel attacks on Iranian facilities. It is not to 'set back Iran's nuclear program' as will be widely claimed," John Ghazvinian, executive director of the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote on Twitter. "It is to set back diplomacy. And it's not a new tactic."
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday declared an "enduring and ironclad" American commitment to Israel while visiting Israel during his first talks in the country since he became Pentagon chief in January.
Austin made no mention of Iran during public remarks, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the "U.S. was not involved in any way" with Sunday's incident.
But Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his country views the U.S. as a "full partner" against threats, "not the least, Iran."
Iran wants Washington to immediately lift economic sanctions imposed on it by the Trump administration when the U.S. withdrew from the accord. Washington has signaled it is prepared to lift the sanctions but first wants Iran to return to full compliance with the deal. Since the U.S. withdrawal, Iran has taken a series of steps that have loosened its adherence to the deal, such as enriching uranium at higher grades.
Psaki said indirect talks with Iran scheduled for Wednesday would "be difficult and long."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Iran accuses Israel of attacking Natanz nuclear facility