Sunday, October 6, 2013

Iran arrests 4 men in 'nuclear facilities sabotage' plot

An Iranian technician works at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facilities (UCF), 420 kms south of Tehran (AFP Photo / Behrouz Mehri)
An Iranian technician works at the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facilities (UCF), 420 kms south of Tehran (AFP Photo / Behrouz Mehri)

The Iranian authorities have arrested four men for planning to sabotage nuclear sites, reports state news. The announcement comes as Iran’s newly-appointed president takes steps to allay fears over its supposed nuclear weapons program.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced on Sunday that a "number of saboteurs" had been caught “red-handed” before they could carry out their plan.
"Four of these individuals were caught red-handed and their interrogations are ongoing," he said, according to the Mehr news agency on Sunday. Salehi did not elaborate on any of the details of the alleged plot to sabotage Iranian nuclear facilities and did not specify the nuclear sites that were targeted.

He added that the suspects were now being interrogated by Iranian authorities. 

Iran has accused the West on a number of occasions of sabotaging its nuclear program. In the past Tehran has slammed the US and Israel for orchestrating the Stuxnet cyberattack on nuclear facility systems in 2010. Iran has also claimed the West is behind the assassination of its nuclear scientists.
The arrest of the suspected saboteurs comes as the Iranian government takes steps to dispel western fears over its nuclear program. The West believes that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, something that the country’s leadership has consistently denied, maintaining its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

New to office, President Hassan Rouhani has reached out to Washington in a move to restart negotiations over Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons program.

Rouhani spoke to President Barack Obama last week in a telephone call, which marked the first talks between US and Iranian leaders in over three decades.

As it stands President Rouhani is set to meet with leaders from the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China in Geneva in mid-October in landmark negotiations. Iran’s new moderate leadership wants to lift the crippling economic sanctions implemented against Tehran by Washington with a view to curtailing the Iranian nuclear program.

Tehran has said that the international community must come up with new conditions before the negotiations in Geneva. Currently, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - plus Germany demand that Iran cease enrichment of uranium to 20 per cent. In addition, they have asked Tehran to ship out some uranium stockpiles.

Iran’s new stance on the nuclear issue has been hailed by world leaders as a step in the right direction and a possible end to the diplomatic stalemate.

‘Iran is one year away from nuclear armament’

However, Washington has voiced skepticism over Tehran’s motives. On Friday Obama told press that while Rouhani was saying “all the right things,” it remains to be seen whether or not he will follow through with his pledges. In addition, Obama stated that Iran is one year away from developing a nuclear weapon, citing US intelligence sources.

Israel, on the other hand, claims that Tehran’s wish to negotiate is merely a ruse and Iran is months away from developing its nuclear capabilities. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Israel will move to strike Iranian nuclear facilities if Tehran does not cease its alleged nuclear weapons ambitions.

On Tuesday Netanyahu urged the UN General Assembly not to be fooled by Iran, stressing that Israeli was ready to “stand alone” against the country it has branded an enemy of the state.
“Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community,” said Netanyahu. He appealed to the international community to keep the financial penalties against Tehran in place.