Middle East

Iran’s Zarif rejects Netanyahu’s secret atomic warehouse claims as a ‘show’

Netanyahu said there were 15 shipping containers of nuclear-related equipment and materials stored at the alleged site (Reuters)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has dismissed claims by Israel's prime minister that the Islamic Republic is harbouring a secret atomic warehouse as an "arts and craft show".

Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday, Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of hiding nuclear-related material at a warehouse in Tehran, which he said proved it had not abandoned its nuclear weapons programme.

Relying on uncorroborated pictures and diagrams during his speech, Netanyahu help up a photo of the alleged warehouse, featuring an innocuous-looking cement wall with a metal gate in the middle.

Netanyahu said: "Today I am disclosing for the first time that Iran has another secret facility in Tehran, a secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran's secret nuclear programme."

Responding in a tweet on Friday, Zarif said: "No arts & craft show will ever obfuscate that Israel is only regime in our region with a 'secret' and 'undeclared' nuclear weapons program".

Zarif also called on Israel to "open its illegal nuclear weapons" programme to international inspectors.


Netanyahu: Iran deceiving the world about nuclear accord

In April, Netanyahu unveiled what he said were archives that showed a secret Iranian nuclear weapons programme ahead of the US decision to pull out of the nuclear deal.

In his speech on Thursday, he said: "Since we raided the atomic archive, they've been busy cleaning out the atomic warehouse.

"Just last month they removed 15 kilograms of radioactive material. You know what they did with it?

"They took it out and they spread it around Tehran in an effort to hide the evidence."

The site Netanyahu identified sits a short distance from the Shourabad district, outside Tehran.

The Israeli prime minister said Iranian officials had started cleaning out the atomic warehouse, but still had a lot of work to do because there were 15 shipping containers of nuclear-related equipment and materials stored at the site.

"This site contained as much as 300 tonnes – 300 tonnes – of nuclear-related equipment and material," he said.

A US State Department official called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to investigate Netanyahus claims, the Reuters news agency reported.

In a statement, the official said it was “absolutely imperative that the IAEA fully exercise its authorities in order to provide confidence to the international community that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran”.

IAEA backs Tehran

Under the nuclear deal struck by Iran and six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US – Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear programme in return for relief from US and other economic sanctions.

The US withdrew from the agreement in May on the orders of US President Donald Trump and has restored sanctions against Iran.

The IAEA has repeatedly said Tehran was abiding by its commitments to the deal.

France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia have stayed in the pact, vowing to save it despite the restoration of sanctions.

"While the United States is confronting Iran with new sanctions, Europe and others are appeasing Iran by trying to help it bypass those new sanctions," Netanyahu said.

Commenting directly after the speech, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi dismissed Netanyahu's allegations as "meaningless".

"The world will only laugh loudly at this type of false, meaningless and unncessary speech," he said, according to Fars News.

Netanyahu also lambasted Iran's ballistic missile activity, displaying a satellite image of Beirut identifying what he said were three locations near the airport where Lebanon's Hezbollah was converting missiles.

"In Lebanon, Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles, missiles that can target deep inside Israel within an accuracy of 10 metres," he said.

Original Article


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