Iran Threatens Retaliation For Cyber Attack At Nuclear Site

Iran say it will retaliate against any country that carries out cyber attacks on its nuclear sites, after there was a fire at its Natanz plant which Iranian officials say may have been caused by cyber sabotageThe Natanz uranium-enrichment site, much of which is underground, is one of several Iranian facilities monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.

Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation initially reported an "incident" had occurred at Natanz, located in the desert in the central province of Isfahan.

Iranian government sources said the cause of the "incident" at the nuclear site had been determined, but "due to security considerations" it would be announced at a convenient time. It later published a photo of a one-storey brick building with its roof and walls partly burned. A door hanging off its hinges suggested there had been an explosion inside the building.

"Responding to cyber-attacks is part of the country's defence might. If it is proven that our country has been targeted by a cyber-attack, we will respond," civil defence chief Gholamreza Jalali told state TV. An article by state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although it stopped short of accusing either directly.

Iranian officials have sought to downplay the fire, calling it only an “incident” that affected an “industrial shed.”
However, a released photo and video of the site broadcast by Iranian state television showed a two-story brick building with scorch marks and its roof apparently destroyed.

In 2010, the Stuxnet computer virus, which is widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered after it was used to attack the Natanz facility. Iranian officials said Israel could have been behind the Natanz incident, but offered no evidence.

Asked about recent incidents reported at strategic Iranian sites, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters: "Clearly we can't get into that." The Israeli military and Netanyahu's office, which oversees Israel's foreign intelligence service Mossad, did not immediately respond to Reuters queries on Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the location of the fire did not contain nuclear materials, and that none of its inspectors was present at the time. "The Agency has been in contact with relevant Iranian authorities to confirm there will be no impact on its safeguards verification activities, which are expected to continue as before," an IAEA said in a statement. 

Natanz is the centre-piece of Iran's enrichment program, which Tehran says is only for peaceful purposes. Western intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe it had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear arms program that it halted in 2003.

Iran cut back nuclear work in exchange for the removal of most global sanctions under an accord reached with six world powers in 2015, but has reduced compliance with the deal's restrictions since the United States withdrew in 2018.

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