Iran denies Israeli accusation of 'secret atomic warehouse'

2018-09-28 19:31
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. (Debbie Hil, AP, file)

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. (Debbie Hil, AP, file)

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran on Thursday of keeping a "secret atomic warehouse" just outside its capital, despite the 2015 deal with world powers that was meant to keep it from obtaining nuclear weapons. Hours later, Iran dismissed the allegation.

Holding up a poster-board map of an area near Tehran as he spoke at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu told world leaders that Iranian officials have been keeping up to 300 tons of nuclear equipment and material in a walled, unremarkable-looking property near a rug-cleaning operation.

Netanyahu's disclosure - which he presented as a big reveal on the international community's biggest stage - came four months after Israel announced the existence of what it said was a "half-ton" of Iranian nuclear documents obtained by Israeli intelligence in the Shourabad neighbourhood near Tehran.

READ: China's Xi backs nuclear deal in talks with Iran leader

Israel said the cache proved that Iranian leaders covered up their nuclear weapons programme before signing the nuclear agreement. Iran hasn't acknowledged the alleged seizure.

"You have to ask yourself a question: 'Why did Iran keep a secret atomic archive and a secret atomic warehouse?'" Netanyahu asked. "What Iran hides, Israel will find."

Nuclear arsenal

Netanyahu didn't specify what the material and equipment was, and it was not immediately clear whether it proved to be a violation of the nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been monitoring Iran's compliance with the agreement, had no immediate comment.

Netanyahu also said Iranian officials had been clearing some radioactive material out of the site, which sits a short distance from Shourabad, and "spread it around Tehran".

He then even suggested that residents of the capital might want to buy Geiger counters.

In a tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif derided the Israeli presentation as an "arts and craft show" by a country that he said needed to come clean about its own nuclear programme.

Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal but has never publicly acknowledged it.

Zarif said there was nothing to the Israeli allegation, Iranian state-run media reported.

"The only purpose of this is to undercut the reality that Israel is the biggest threat to the region," he was quoted as saying. He noted that the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has certified Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal.

The 2015 deal came after years of Western sanctions over Iran's contested atomic programme. The West had feared it could be used to build nuclear bombs. Iran long has denied seeking atomic weapons.

Under terms of the deal, Iran is allowed to keep documents and other research.

The deal strictly limits how many centrifuges - important equipment for making enriched uranium that can be used in nuclear power plants or in weapons - Iran can use and how large of a low-enriched uranium stockpile the country can keep.

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Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  israel  |  iran  |  nuclear  |  iran nuclear programme

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