VIENNA – Iran’s nuclear chief said Monday that “terrorists and saboteurs” might have infiltrated the International Atomic Energy Agency in an effort to derail his nation’s atomic program. It was Tehran’s harshest attack on the integrity of the U.N. organization and its investigation of allegations that Iran is striving to make nuclear arms.
Fereydoun Abbasi also rebuked the United States in comments to the IAEA’s 155-nation general conference, reflecting Iran’s determination to continue defying international pressure aimed at curbing its nuclear program and nudging it toward cooperation with the IAEA inspection.
Revealing what he said were two sabotage attempts on his country’s nuclear program, he challenged the perpetrators to launch new attacks, saying his country is determined to learn how to protect its interests through such assaults.
The defiant speech was bound to give a greater voice to hardline Israeli leaders who say that both diplomatic efforts and economic penalties have had no effect on Iran, leaving military strikes as the only alternative to stopping it from developing nuclear weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a proponent of such an option, made a direct appeal to American voters on Sunday to elect a president willing to draw a “red line” with Iran.
In the past week, Netanyahu has urged President Obama and other world leaders to state clearly at what point Iran would face a military attack. But Obama and his top aides have pointed to shared U.S.-Israeli intelligence that suggests Iran hasn’t decided yet whether to build a bomb, despite pursuing the technology, and that there would be time for action beyond toughened sanctions already in place.
Iran has often warned that any Israeli attack would trigger a devastating response, and Abbasi suggested Monday that such strikes would not succeed in slowing down his country’s nuclear program. He said without elaboration that experts have “devised certain ways through which nuclear facilities remain intact under missile attacks and raids.”