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Iran's foreign minister calls attack on nuclear site 'bad gamble'

Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday's explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility will "strengthen" Iran amid ongoing indirect talks with the United States on the nuclear deal.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a press conference at the International Conference on the Legal-International Claims of the Holy Defense in the capital Tehran on Feb. 23, 2021.

Iran’s top diplomat said on Tuesday that Israel made a “bad gamble” by attacking an Iranian nuclear facility. The ordeal could have an effect on ongoing talks between the United States and Iran on the nuclear agreement. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters that the attack on Natanz will strengthen Iran. 

“Israel played a very bad gamble if it thought that the attack will weaken Iran's hand in the nuclear talks,” said Zarif, the US government-funded Radio Free Europe reported. "On the contrary, it will strengthen our position.” 

On Sunday, an explosion rocked Iran’s nuclear facility in the central city of Natanz, where the Islamic Republic is enriching uranium that is needed for nuclear energy. The apparent cyberattack occurred just hours after employees activated advanced centrifuges at the underground facility. Israel has not confirmed its involvement, though Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported that Israeli intelligence a role in the incident. Iran also blamed Israel for the blast. 

Israel has long asserted that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon with its nuclear program, though Iran denies it. Israel considers the prospect of a nuclear Iran a grave threat due to Iranian leaders repeatedly calling for Israel’s destruction and Iran’s support for proxy groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon that fight Israel. 

Zarif’s comments came amid indirect talks with the United States in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal. The administration of US President Joe Biden is currently negotiating a US return to the 2015 agreement, which removed international sanctions on Iran in exchange for its compliance regarding its nuclear program. Iran stopped abiding by the deal’s stipulations after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018. 

The talks began last week and are scheduled to resume on Wednesday. However, some Iranian hard-liners are calling on the government to pull out of the negotiations over the Natanz incident, alleging that the United States was complicit in the attack. The US government has denied involvement. 

Israel adamantly opposes the Iran nuclear deal. Some Gulf states also want any new agreement with Iran to regulate the Islamic Republic’s missile program and support for proxy militias. 

The New York Times reported that it could take at least nine months to resume production at Natanz, citing intelligence officials. However, the Iranian state Press TV reported that enrichment has not stopped

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