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In UN speech, Netanyahu accuses Iran of having ‘secret atomic warehouse’

Published: Updated:

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 neighborhood near Tehran. Israel said the cache proved that Iranian leaders covered up their nuclear weapons program 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.”

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.

The evidence

However, the Israeli Defense Forces shared a video on their official Twitter account to follow up on the prime minister’s speech, showing satellite images and maps that they said prove that Hezbollah have been “trying to establish infrastructure to convert surface-to-surface rockets to accurate missiles” in Beirut.

They added that this is another example of Iranian influence in the region as they support the extremist group.

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

Netanyahu said the site contained some 15 kg (33 pounds) of radioactive material that has since been moved, and called on the U.N. atomic agency to inspect the location immediately with Geiger counters.

"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 materiel from Iran's secret nuclear program," Netanyahu said.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that there should be more scrutiny on Israel's nuclear program.

"No arts & craft show will ever obfuscate that Israel is 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 tweeted.

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

Netanyahu added that Iranian officials still had a lot of work to do because there were some 15 shipping containers full of nuclear-related equipment and materials stored at the second site.

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

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