Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of having a secret atomic warehouse near Tehran in a UN speech that was dismissed as false by Iranian officials.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, Netanyahu displayed an aerial photograph of the Iranian capital with a red arrow pointing to what he said was an undisclosed warehouse holding nuclear-related material.
He contended that the discovery shows Iran is still seeking to develop nuclear weapons, despite its 2015 agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of global economic sanctions.
Netanyahu claimed the site near a rug-cleaning plant in the Turquzabad district contained as much as 300 kilograms of radioactive material, some of which has been moved recently.
He called on the UN atomic agency to inspect the location immediately with Geiger counters — a demand echoed later on September 27 by the U.S. State Department.
Iranian officials dismissed the allegations.
“The world will only laugh loudly at this type of false, meaningless, and unnecessary speech and false shows,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi was quoted as saying by Iran’s Fars news agency.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that there should be more scrutiny of Israel’s nuclear program.
“No arts & craft show will ever obfuscate that Israel is the only regime in our region with a ‘secret’ and ‘undeclared’ nuclear weapons program — including an ‘actual atomic arsenal.’ Time for Israel to fess up and open its illegal nuclear weapons program to international inspectors,” Zarif said on Twitter.
Ghasemi later said Netanyahu’s accusation was “not worth talking about.”
“These farcical claims and the show by the prime minister of the occupying regime [Israel)] were not unexpected,” he said on September 28.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, mocked Netanyahu, saying the Israeli leader must have been badly advised by some people.
Netanyahu did not identify the material he claimed was in the warehouse nor did he specifically say that Iran had violated the nuclear deal.
The Israeli leader regards Iran as the biggest enemy of the Jewish state and has previously made allegations about Tehran’s nuclear activities that are difficult to verify.
In 2012 in a speech to the UN assembly, Netanyahu held up a cartoon drawing of a bomb to dramatize his claim that Tehran was producing a nuclear bomb at the time.
In April, Netanyahu touted what he said was evidence of a large secret archive of documents related to Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program at a different site in Tehran.
He said Israeli agents removed vast amounts of documents from that site. At the time, Iran said the documents were fake.
In his latest UN speech, Netanyahu claimed Iran had begun moving items out of the alleged secret warehouse and spreading them around Tehran to hide the evidence.
He said the warehouse still contains some 15 shipping containers full of nuclear-related equipment and materials, however.
Under the nuclear deal, the UN’s atomic watchdog agency has the authority to inspect any site that allegedly houses nuclear materials.
But the International Atomic Agency has repeatedly said its inspections have found Iran was abiding by the restrictions in the deal. It did not immediately comment on Netanyahu’s latest allegations.
While the United States withdrew from the deal in May, France, Britain, Germany, China, and Russia have continued to honor the agreement and have been seeking to provide legal procedures and protections so their businesses can continue to operate in Iran despite U.S. sanctions.
That drew harsh criticism from Netanyahu, who accused Europe of “appeasing Iran.”
“Instead of coddling Iran’s dictators,” other countries should support the sanctions, he said to applause.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the United States is aware of the facility Netanyahu mentioned and described it as a “warehouse” used to store “records and archives” from Iran’s nuclear program.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran is allowed to keep documents and other research, but the deal puts strict limits on nuclear equipment and materials such as enriched uranium which can be used to make bombs.
The Israeli leader also lambasted Iran’s ballistic missile activity, identifying three locations near Beirut airport where he claimed Iran’s ally, the Lebanese Hizballah militia, is developing precision missiles that could be used to hit Israel.
Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty