State television showed a passport-style photograph of the suspect it identified as Reza Karimi, a 43-year-old man, saying he fled the country before the sabotage happened.

The Natanz uranium enrichment facility buildings are pictured some 320 km south of the capital Tehran, Iran on March 30, 2005.
The Natanz uranium enrichment facility buildings are pictured some 320 km south of the capital Tehran, Iran on March 30, 2005. (AP)

Iran has named a suspect in the attack on its Natanz nuclear facility that damaged centrifuges there, saying he had fled the country before the sabotage happened.

While the extent of the damage from the April 11 sabotage remains unclear, it comes as Iran tries to negotiate with world powers over allowing the US to re-enter its tattered nuclear deal with world powers and lift the economic sanctions it faces.

Already, Iran has begun enriching uranium up to 60 percent purity in response, three times higher than ever before, though in small quantities. The sabotage and Iran's response to it also have further inflamed tensions across the Mideast, where a shadow war between Tehran and Israel, the prime suspect in the sabotage, still rages.

State television named the suspect as 43-year-old Reza Karimi. It showed a passport-style photograph of a man it identified as Karimi, saying he was born in the nearby city of Kashan, Iran.

READ MORE: Iran begins 60% uranium enrichment at Natanz site

'Necessary action' under way

The report did not elaborate how Karimi would have gotten access to one of the most secure facilities in the country.

The report also aired what appeared to be an Interpol “red notice” seeking his arrest. The arrest notice was not immediately accessible on Interpol's public-facing database. Interpol, based in Lyon, France, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The TV report said “necessary actions” are underway to bring Karimi back to Iran through legal channels, without elaborating. The supposed Interpol “red notice” listed his travel history as including Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Ethiopia, Qatar, Turkey, Uganda, Romania and another country that was illegible in the broadcast.

The report also showed centrifuges in a hall, as well as what appeared to be caution tape up at the Natanz facility.

Ongoing negotiations

In Vienna, negotiations continued over the deal on Saturday. The 2015 accord, which former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from in 2018, prevented Iran from stockpiling enough high-enriched uranium to be able to pursue a nuclear weapon if it chose in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, though the West and the IAEA say Tehran had an organised military nuclear program up until the end of 2003. An annual US intelligence report released Tuesday maintained the longtime American assessment that Iran isn’t currently trying to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran previously had said it could use uranium enriched up to 60 percent for nuclear-powered ships. However, Iran currently has no such ships in its navy.

The attack at Natanz was initially described only as a blackout in its electrical grid, but later, Iranian officials began calling it an attack.

One Iranian official referred to “several thousand centrifuges damaged and destroyed” in a state TV interview. However, no other official has offered that figure and no images of the aftermath have been released.

READ MORE: Here’s how Israel hacked Iran’s nuclear facility

Source: TRTWorld and agencies