Tampa Bay Times

Iran: Atomic site blackout ‘nuclear terrorism’

- BY JON GAMBRELL AND ILAN BEN ZION

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran on Sunday described a blackout at its undergroun­d Natanz atomic facility an act of “nuclear terrorism,” raising regional tensions.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organizati­on of Iran, stopped short of directly blaming anyone for the incident. Details remained few about what happened early Sunday morning at the facility, which initially was described as a blackout caused by the electrical grid feeding the site.

Many Israeli media outlets offered the same assessment that a cyberattac­k darkened Natanz and damaged a facility that is home to sensitive centrifuge­s. While the reports offered no sourcing for the evaluation, Israeli media maintains a close relationsh­ip with the country’s military and intelligen­ce agencies.

If Israel caused the blackout, it further heightens tensions between the two nations, already engaged in a shadow conflict across the wider Middle East.

It also complicate­s efforts by the U.S., Israel’s main security partner, to re-enter the atomic accord aimed at limiting Tehran’s program so it can’t pursue a nuclear weapon. News of the blackout emerged as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed Sunday in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

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