A large explosion has been reported in the Iranian city of Isfahan as the regime issued conflicting reports apparently designed to deny any suggestions of a sabotage attack on its nuclear facilities. Officials gave varying accounts of a “huge explosion” in the ancient city, which hosts one of Iran’s main facilities for refining uranium in its nuclear programme.
While some sources told news agencies there had been a blast on military facilities, others said there had been a fireball at a petrol station.
Residents of the city were independently telling relatives and friends overseas that the city had been shaken by a massive blast in the early afternoon.
Security experts speculated Iran had suffered another blow to its programme to build nuclear-capable missiles.
Isfahan is home to Iran’s largest facility for research and development of ballistic missiles. Multiple reports said the blast did not emanate from the nuclear facility.
Alireza Zakeri, the provincial governor of Isfahan, was quoted as saying that the blast took place during military exercises at a military airbase.
“An explosion has happened in Isfahan relates to a military exercise in one part of the city and is not particularly any problem,” he said.
“The exercise has been in the 8th Airbase and around the airport in north east of Isfahan but the authorities had not informed us about it in advance so that we could have let the public know about it happening”
Gholamreza Ansari, the head of the judiciary in the province, also confirmed there was a blast.
The Mehr news agency however reported that the blast was at a fuel facility. There were no reports of casualties.
Confusion was compounded by the withdrawal of the original report on Fars, a news outfit linked to the Revolutionary Guards, which first reported the blast.
The incident comes just two weeks after the head of Iran’s ballistic missile development programme, was killed in a massive blast 25 miles south of Tehran.
In contrast to previously unexplained attacks on key scientists, Iran said that incident was an accident that occurred in routine manoeuvres.
Military analysts however said the intensity of the explosion suggested a targeted attempt at sabotaging Iran’s nuclear-related missile development programme, most probably carried out by Mossad.
Separately William Hague, the foreign secretary, warned Iran that it would face an international backlash if it expelled Britain’s ambassador to Tehran after the Islamic regime ratified legislation to downgrade UK ties. Mr Hague said the expulsion of Dominick Chilcott, who has been in Tehran just one month, would damage its ties with Europe and other Western states.
“If the Iranian government confirms its intention to act on this, we shall respond robustly in consultation with our international partners,” Mr Hague said.
The bill – passed by an overwhelming majority yesterday – requires both Iran and Britain to withdraw their ambassadors from the other country and reduce representation to the level of charge d’affaires.
It also calls for trade between the two countries to be reduced to “minimum levels”.
The EU is due to consider an oil embargo on Iranian experts as well as the imposition of targeted sanctions on 180 Iranian officials in response to a report from UN weapons inspectors confirming Iran has undertaken work to build a nuclear bomb.
However diplomats said the French-backed proposal to impose an oil embargo would not receive Europe-wide support.