State television named the suspect 43-year-old Reza Karimi. It showed a passport photo of a man identified as Karimi, stating that he was born in the nearby city of Kashan, Iran.
The report also aired what appeared to be a “red notice” from Interpol seeking his arrest. The warrant was not immediately available on Interpol’s public database. Interpol, based in Lyon, France, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The television report said that “necessary measures” are underway to bring Karimi back to Iran through legal channels without elaborating on it. In the alleged “red announcement” from Interpol, his international travel history was listed in Ethiopia, Kenya, the Netherlands, Qatar, Romania, Turkey, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates, among others.
The report did not specify how Karimi would have gained access to one of the safest facilities in the Islamic Republic. For the first time, however, it offered authorities to acknowledge an explosion that had struck the Natanz facility.
There was “a limited explosion of a small portion of the power path to the centrifuge hall,” the television report said. “The explosion was due to the function of explosives and there was no cyberattack.”
Initial reports in the Israeli media, which have close ties to their military and intelligence services, blamed a cyber attack for the damage.
Iranian state television also said there were pictures confirming the report of an explosion rather than cyberattacks offered by security services, but it did not broadcast those pictures.
The report also showed centrifuges in a hall as well as what appeared to be careful tape in the Natanz facility. In one shot, a television reporter interviewed an unnamed technician who was shown from behind – likely a security measure given that Iranian nuclear scientists have been murdered in the past in alleged Israeli-orchestrated attacks.
“The sound you hear is the sound of machines that are thankfully undamaged,” he said, the high-pitched whine of the centrifuges in the background. “Many of the defective centrifuge chains are now under control. Some of the disrupted work will be back on track with the efforts of my colleagues around the clock. ”
Negotiations on the deal continued in Vienna on Saturday. The 2015 deal, from which former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US in 2018, prevented Iran from stockpiling enough highly enriched uranium to pursue a nuclear weapon if it opted to lift economic sanctions.
Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, even though the West and the IAEA say Tehran had an organized military nuclear program by the end of 2003. An annual US intelligence report released on Tuesday confirmed the longstanding American assessment that Iran is not currently attempting to build an atomic bomb.
Iran had previously announced that it could use up to 60% enriched uranium for nuclear-powered ships. However, the Islamic Republic currently has no such ships in its navy.
The attack on Natanz was originally described only as a blackout in its electricity network – Iranian officials later called it an attack.
An Iranian official referred to “several thousand damaged and destroyed centrifuges” in a state television interview. However, no other official has offered this figure, and no pictures of the aftermath have been released.