U.S. official calls Netanyahu's Iran nuclear warehouse claim 'somewhat misleading'

Geneva Stokes
September 28, 2018

This combination of pictures created on February 18, 2018 shows Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) as they attend the Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany.

The prime minister said in his speech to the UN General Assembly Thursday that the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, had failed to take any action after he revealed in April a nuclear archive that Israeli spies managed to spirit out of Iran, and so he was now disclosing what he said was another "secret atomic warehouse" in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, a few miles from the archive.

"Netanyahu has to explain how Israel, being the only regime that has nuclear weapons in the region, can so cynically level such allegations against a country whose nuclear program's peacefulness has been repeatedly certified by the IAEA", Zarif told Iran's official IRNA news agency.

"Israel will never let a regime that calls for our destruction to develop nuclear weapons".

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing a suspected "secret atomic warehouse" in the Turquzabad district of Tehran containing up to 300 tons of nuclear material.

Netanyahu held up a map and a photograph of an outwardly "innocent looking compound" which he said was a secret atomic warehouse in Tehran and urged the United Nations atomic agency to inspect.

Bahram Qassemi, spokesperson for Iran's foreign ministry, also dismissed Netanyahu's claims as "ridiculous and baseless", according to the Isna news agency.

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"The only goal of this is to undercut the reality that Israel is the biggest threat to the region and Netanyahu himself has stood in a facility that produces nuclear weapons and threatened the annihilation of other nations".

An unnamed U.S. diplomatic source quoted by Israel's national broadcaster Kan said: "The latest revelation of nuclear documents requires the Agency to find out if Iran is hiding nuclear materials or activity". In a speech in which he said relatively little about efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said Iran had since begun moving items out of the second site. Just last month they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material.

"This site contained as much as 300 tonnes - 300 tonnes - of nuclear-related equipment and materiel", he said. The International Atomic Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly said Tehran was abiding by its commitments to the deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including in a document reviewed by Reuters on August 30.

At the time, Netanyahu was mocked online for dumbing-down his presentation for an alleged "audience of one" - namely US President Donald Trump. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall.

Netanyahu is known for showmanship at the U.N. General Assembly. "Not now, not in 10 years, not ever", he said.

The Israeli leader also lambasted Iran's ballistic missile activity, identifying three locations near Beirut airport where he said Lebanon's Hezbollah was converting missiles.

A Hezbollah spokesman in Beirut said Friday the group has "no comment" on Netanyahu's claims.

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