“Due to the sabotage, it was decided to build a more modern, larger and more comprehensive hall in all dimensions in the heart of the mountain near Natanz. Of course, the work has begun,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian diplomat and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), according to Reuters, which cited state TV.
The “sabotage” Salehi spoke of refers to the July 2 fire and subsequent explosion that took place at the Natanz nuclear site, the country’s largest uranium enrichment facility.
Iranian officials initially suspected a gas leak was responsible for the incident, which did not result in radioactive leaks or other significant damage, but a more thorough investigation has since been launched by Tehran.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesperson for the AEOI, recently told IRIB TV1 that the probe may be nearing an end.
“The security agencies are thoroughly investigating what happened in Natanz, which was sabotage. As far as we know, they have managed to identify the forces [responsible for the sabotage], identify the causes, details, and methods."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh previously stated that Tehran “will give the necessary response” to the alleged sabotage incident “if it comes from abroad.”
This comes amid ongoing tensions between Washington and Tehran and the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) rejection of a US-led draft resolution to extend the weapons embargo initiated under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared prior to the UNSC vote last month that Washington will do “everything that we can within our diplomatic tool set to ensure that [the] arms embargo doesn't expire” on October 18.
“We have been unambiguous about the fact we have no intention of allowing this arms embargo to expire. None whatsoever,” Pompeo underscored.
Tehran, on the other hand, has expressed that it intends to increase its exports of domestically made weapons following the expiration of the arms embargo.
“We will surely be able to export more military equipment than we need to import. Therefore, we will surely use our legal right [to sell arms] in dealing with our allies once the restrictions are lifted,” Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said, as reported by Iran’s Student News Network.