by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Sept 17, 2012
Iran's nuclear chief said Monday that "explosives" were used last month in an attack aimed at cutting the power supply to an underground enrichment facility but that the plant suffered no damage.
"On... 17th August 2012, the electric power lines from the city of Qom to the Fordo complex... were cut using explosives," Fereydoon Abbasi Davani told the 155-nation International Atomic Energy Agency gathering.
Abbasi Davani did not accuse anyone, but in the past Iran has pointed the finger at Israel and the United States for assassinations of its nuclear scientists and computer viruses targeting its atomic facilities.
Fordo is a key site in Iran's nuclear programme, dug deep into a mountain to protect it against air strikes and enriching uranium to purities of 20 percent, a short step from the 90 percent needed for a nuclear weapon.
Abbasi Davani said in his speech, however that because Fordo had a back-up power supply and diesel generators, "we did not witness any kind of damages at Fordo," he told a later news conference through an interpreter.
He said that an earlier sabotage attempt had also been directed at the power supply at another enrichment facility, Natanz, but he did not say when this had taken place.
He also said that a "very small amount of explosives" had been detected in 200 pieces of vacuum equipment used in the enrichment process which it bought three or four years ago.
Abbasi Davani also said he had repeated Monday a request to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano for the agency to provide less detail in its regular quarterly reports on Iran, saying they could fall into the hands of "terrorists."
"The authorities of the agency and the director general personally are too honest and sincere in providing their reports," he said, adding that the data could be useful for "those who want to conduct an act of sabotage."
He also said he had asked for the reports, which contain detailed information on Iran's nuclear facilities and are available on the IAEA's website, not to be published on the Internet.
Abbasi Davani also said however that sabotage attempts against Iran's nuclear activities have failed and would continue to fail.
"The plotters of attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities have realised, through the IAEA's published reports, that they have not gained any success in this regard," he said in his speech.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful and that uranium enrichment is for power generation and medical purposes.
Many in the international community suspect otherwise and the UN Security Council has passed six resolutions calling for a suspension of enrichment. Israel and the US have also refused to rule out military action.
Abbasi Davani also blamed the IAEA for the failure of a string of meetings this year aimed at clarifying the agency's suspicions that prior to 2003, and possibly since, Iran had a structured programme of activities it said were "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."
Higher-level diplomatic meetings between Iran and the P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany -- took place in Istanbul, Baghdad and Moscow earlier this year but were downgraded to working-group level.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the P5+1 chief negotiator, will however meet Iranian counterpart Saeed Jalili in Istanbul on Tuesday for their first face-to-face talks since June, her office said on Monday.
Snapshot of US forces in the Gulf
Here is a snapshot of the US military presence in the Central Command's area of operations, a restive region that extends from Egypt to Afghanistan, drawn from official and unofficial sources:
Total number of US forces: 180,000, including 71,000 in Afghanistan and 20,000 aboard US naval vessels, the Pentagon says.
Two US naval carrier strike groups are currently operating in the region -- the USS Eisenhower in the Gulf, and the USS Abraham Lincoln in the North Arabian Sea, each with a guided missile destroyer and cruiser, the US Navy says.
The USS Ponce -- a converted amphibious transport ship equipped to carry helicopters -- is anchoring a beefed-up force of US minesweepers whose task is to keep open the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, navy officials say.
The number of US minesweepers has doubled to eight since June.
The US Air Force has deployed an undisclosed number of F-22 fighters to a base in the United Arab Emirates, which faces Iran across the Gulf, US officials say. Never before deployed overseas, the stealthy F-22 is the most advanced combat aircraft in the US arsenal, capable of cruising at supersonic speeds.
Older F-15C fighter aircraft have also been deployed to bases in the region as part of the buildup, according to the New York Times.
Additionally, each aircraft carrier has about 60 aircraft, according to the navy.
Access to Bases
An estimated 15,000 US troops are stationed in Kuwait, mainly at Arifjan, one of the largest bases in the region, US defense officials say. US and allied air forces also have operated out of Ali Al Salem Air Base.
US officials were seeking Kuwait's approval to base an additional combat brigade, some 3,000 troops, and other units in Kuwait after the drawdown of US forces from Iraq. It was unclear whether permission was granted, and Pentagon officials cite host nation sensitivities in refusing to discuss specific troop numbers there or elsewhere in the region.
The Pentagon in July said it was planning to sell 60 Patriot advanced capability (PAC-3) missiles to Kuwait worth an estimated $4.2 billion.
The US Fifth Fleet maintains its headquarters in Manama, managing the flow of US naval forces in an area encompassing the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf.
United Arab Emirates
The F-22 fighters are deployed at the UAE's Al-Dhafra Air base, in Abu Dhabi, according to US officials. The base also has been used for air refueling missions and surveillance and reconnaissance missions, according to experts.
In December 2011, the United States announced a $3.48 billion arms sale to the UAE for missile defense batteries and radars.
The Al-Udeid Air Base near Doha is a state-of-the-art facility built in the late 1990s expressly to accommodate US air forces in the event of a conflict with Iran. It has been used for air refueling operations. It can house at least 120 aircraft and 10,000 troops.
The sultanate has allowed US forces access to its bases since 1980, following the Islamic revolution in Iran. B-1 bombers operated from bases in Oman during the US campaign to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan. The military also stores supplies there.
At the peak of the Afghan campaign, 4,300 US military personnel were based there, but since 2004 there have been fewer than 50, according to Kenneth Katzman, a researcher at the Congressional Research Service.
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Massive anti-mine naval exercise underway in Gulf
Dubai (AFP) Sept 17, 2012
Naval forces from more than 30 countries were on Monday engaged in a massive minesweeping exercise in the Gulf, US officials said, amid Iranian threats to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The US-led International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX), the first of its kind in the Middle East, comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Iran over the Islamic republic's controversi ... read more
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