US official urges Atomic watchdog to probe Netanyahu’s claims on Iran


(JTA) — A State Department official called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims about a secret nuclear warehouse in Tehran.

Netanyahu made the claim about the facility in the Turquzabad district of the Iranian capital Thursday during a speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

Netanyahu claimed the warehouse was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret weapons program,” which was being moved to other parts of the city. He urged the IAEA to investigate the locale.

In a statement quoted by Reuters, a State Department official said following Netanyahu’s claims that 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.”

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An unnamed U.S. diplomatic source quoted by the Israel Broadcasting Corp. said: “The latest revelation of nuclear documents requires the Agency to find out if Iran is hiding nuclear materials or activity.”

In April, Israel announced it had stolen more than 100,000 documents from a Tehran archive detailing the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran has denied Netanyahu’s claims about a nuclear warehouse.

An unnamed U.S. intelligence source was quoted by the Israel Broadcasting Corp. as disputing Netanyahu’s claims about the warehouse.

“What Netanyahu said last night was slightly misleading,” the source was quoted as saying. “We knew about the facility in Tehran and it’s a place full of file cabinets and documents, not aluminum pipes or centrifuges. Secondly, there’s nothing in that facility that can be seen as an Iranian violation of the nuclear deal.”

In 2015, Iran, the United States and six other world powers reached a deal that offered Iran relief for sanctions in exchange for its dialing back of parts of its nuclear program. Israel opposed the deal, which had a 10-year expiration date, arguing it paved Iran’s path to nuclear weapons. In May, President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, reintroducing sanctions both on Iran and on companies doing business with it.

In June, the French automaker Peugeot-Citroen said it intended to leave the Iranian market for fear of U.S. sanctions. Other European corporations that said they would leave Iran following the deal’s termination in May include the French energy firm Total; the Danish shipping giant Maersk; the German conglomerate Siemens; and the Russian energy firm Lukoil.

American corporations including General Electric, Honeywell and Boeing also announced that they were leaving Iran following the U.S. pullout from the deal. The Asian conglomerates Reliance, Mazda and Hyundai suspended contracts with Iran.

These developments, compounded by low oil prices, sent the Iranian currency into a free-fall. The rial hit a record low this week of around 170,000 against the dollar, compared to about 3,500 rial for one dollar in September 2016.

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