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Iran suggests sabotage at IAEA

The head of Iran's nuclear development has told the International Atomic Energy Agency that explosive blasts cut the power lines to a facility last month. He said Tehran suspects sabotage.

Fereydoun Abbasi did not say who was behind the supposed sabotage in his address to the 155-country International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, on Monday - merely claiming that explosions had cut off power to an underground facility.

"On … 17th August 2012, the electric power lines from the city of Qom to the Fordo complex … were cut using explosives," Abbasi told the gathering via an interpreter. "During the early hours of the next morning an [IAEA] Agency inspector requested a visit the next day in order to conduct an unannounced inspection. Does this visit have any connection to that detonation?"

Abbasi also said that "it should be recalled that power cutoff is one of the ways to break down centrifuge machines," referring to devices used to enrich uranium.

The Fordo nuclear site is dug deep into the mountains to protect it from aerial attack. It is believed to enrich uranium to purities of 20 percent - well short of the 90 percent purity needed for use in a nuclear bomb. Iran says its nuclear program aims only to provide atomic energy but several countries - most notably Israel - believe Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his government thought Iran was six or seven months away from being able to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran has also suggested foul play in other instances of apparent sabotage and the assassination of several prominent nuclear scientists, most recently in January.

The IAEA, Iran and the international community have been in talks over this issue for years with little progress made. Amano visited Tehran for talks in May. On the international level, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the news agency Interfax on Monday that fresh six-party talks on Iran were scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the 67th meeting of the UN General Assembly, which officially begins on Tuesday.

Gatilov said that a meeting of Russia, the US, China, Britain, France and Germany "has been planned," adding though that no final decision had yet been taken.

msh/mz (AFP, AP, Reuters)