Israel accused the UN nuclear watchdog of failing to inspect a suspected nuclear site in Iran Tuesday, pushing back against claims by the agency’s chief that it had checked all relevant nuclear sites in the Islamic Republic.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the International Atomic Energy Agency had failed to look into an alleged nuclear warehouse he revealed during an address to the United Nations General Assembly last week.
“The IAEA is referring to the tests it conducted in various places in Iran, but does not relate to the specific site in Turquzabad the prime minister presented to the UN,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
During his UN speech on Thursday, Netanyahu showed pictures of what he said was a warehouse in Tehran storing up to 300 tons of nuclear material that he said Iran was holding onto in order to quickly restart its nuclear program.
He claimed the information had been shared with others, but the IAEA had failed to inspect the site, a claim his office repeated on Tuesday.
“There is no reason to wait,” the statement read. “The IAEA must inspect the site and immediately dispatch monitors with Geiger counters and the Prime Minister’s words will be seen as verifiably true.”‘
Earlier in the day, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano responded to the claims for the first time, saying that his agency had checked all relevant sites for breaches of the nuclear deal.
“As I stated in my reports to the IAEA Board of Governors, evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remain ongoing,” Amano said in a statement. “The Agency continues to evaluate Iran’s declarations… and has conducted complementary accesses… to all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit.”
He added that evaluations regarding undeclared nuclear materials in Iran were ongoing and that its policy was to carefully assess information from third parties on all matters in order to maintain impartiality.
Netanyahu in his speech last week revealed what he said was a previously unknown Iranian nuclear site, and accused the IAEA of failing to investigate findings about the site that he provided to it earlier this year.
Amano insisted that his agency “uses all safeguards relevant information available to it but it does not take any information at face value.
“In line with established safeguards practices, all information obtained, including from third parties, is subject to rigorous review and assessed together with other available information to arrive at an independent assessment based on the Agency’s own expertise,” he said in his statement. “It is not the practice of the Agency to publicly discuss issues related to any such information.”
The US on Friday asked the IAEA to investigate Netanyahu’s new allegations, although Reuters also quoted a US official as saying the prime minister’s information was misleading, and that the site contained documentation and not nuclear materials.
During his speech, Netanyahu claimed the warehouse was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret weapons program,” which was quickly being moved to other parts of the city.
He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from the warehouse and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents. The site may contain as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, he added.
He did not specify what nuclear material was contained at the site.
Israeli officials had said they hoped publicly revealing the information would galvanize the IAEA into action.
Iran has mocked the allegations that the site is a nuclear facility. A reporter for the semi-official Tasnim News sent to investigate Netanyahu’s allegation was told by a worker from inside the facility that it was not a military site, and the Israeli leader was “a stupid person” for believing it was a nuclear warehouse.
The reporter did not enter the facility, only speaking to the worker via intercom from outside the locked gate.
The spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Bahram Ghasemi, 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.
During his speech, Netanyahu also revealed what he said were Hezbollah precision missile sites hidden in Beirut, and warned that Israel would act against Iran “whenever and wherever.”
The disclosure came five 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.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.