SABOTEURS struck Iran's newest and most sensitive nuclear facility by blowing up its power supply cables, the head of the country's atomic energy programme disclosed yesterday.
This announcement offered a rare glimpse of a long-running campaign to sabotage Iran's nuclear installations, believed to be a key priority of Western and Israeli intelligence agencies.
The Fordow plant, located inside a bunker dug into a mountainside, became the latest target on August 17 when an explosion severed its electricity cables, running from the nearby city of Qom.
Fereydoun Abbasi, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, disclosed the incident during a speech in Vienna to the 155 members of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
He noted that IAEA inspectors visited Fordow the day after the explosion and insinuated that they might have been responsible. "During the early hours of the next morning, an agency inspector requested to conduct an unannounced inspection. Does this visit have any connection to that detonation?" asked Mr Abbasi.
"Who, other than the IAEA inspectors, can have access to the complex in such a short term to report and record failures?"
Mr Abbasi added: "Terrorists and saboteurs might have intruded the agency and might be making decisions covertly."
Five Iranian nuclear scientists are known to have been assassinated since 2007. Mr Abbasi was wounded when a motorcyclist attached a bomb to his car in Tehran in November 2010, on the same day another scientist was killed by this method.
The Fordow enrichment plant was built in secret from 2006 onwards. But Western intelligence discovered its construction, allowing US President Barack Obama to reveal the installation's existence in 2009. Fordow is Iran's most valuable plant because its location could render it immune to air attack.
The CIA is understood to have begun a sabotage campaign, code-named "Olympic Games", under the Bush administration. The most successful intervention was the Stuxnet computer virus, which makes centrifuges spin out of control and tear themselves to pieces. This virus probably delayed Iran's nuclear ambitions by up to a year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)