Liberman: We have info on other nuclear sites in Iran and Lebanon

Defense minister says Israel will release intel when time is right; blasts Beirut for ‘manipulatively’ bringing reporters to site of alleged missile factory 3 days after PM speech

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) tours the Karnei Shomron settlement on October 2, 2018 with local council chairman Igal Lahav. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R) tours the Karnei Shomron settlement on October 2, 2018 with local council chairman Igal Lahav. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

KARNEI SHOMRON, West Bank — Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman claimed Tuesday that Israel has information on additional nuclear facilities in Iran and Lebanon that it will make public when the timing is right.

“We have a lot of information at hand and we are still choosing the right time to reveal [intelligence on additional nuclear] facilities both in Iran as well as in Beirut,” Liberman told journalists during a press conference in the northern West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron.

Liberman was commenting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s choice not to reveal intelligence on an additional covert Iranian nuclear site during his United Nations address last week.

The Israeli premier, in  his speech, disclosed what he said was a previously unknown “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran, said it could contain up to 300 tons of nuclear material, added that 15 kilograms of radioactive material had recently been removed from it, and castigated the IAEA for having failed to act on information to this effect provided by Israel weeks ago.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, holds up a placard showing a suspected Iranian atomic site while delivering a speech at the United Nations during the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly (full text), Netanyahu also revealed what he said were Hezbollah precision missile sites hidden in Beirut.

The prime minister said the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear agency, had failed to take any action after he revealed in April a nuclear archive that Israeli spies managed to spirit out of Iran, and so he was now disclosing what he said was a “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, a few miles from the archive.

Three days later, on Monday, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil gathered diplomats and journalists outside Beirut’s international airport in a bid to disprove Israeli accusations that the site housed an arms factory belonging to Hezbollah.

Liberman referred to that tour of the alleged sites by Lebanon as a “manipulation,” pointing out that Bassil only brought the group of foreigners to the site 72 hours after Netanyahu had made the claims.

Lebanese soldiers guard as Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, center, tours a site next to a soccer club, with diplomats and journalists, one of several locations they visited near Beirut’s international airport, in Beirut, Lebanon, October 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

“What I suggest is that the next time [such a revelation is made] they bring journalists to the site immediately after and not 72 hours later,” the defense minister said.

Israel has alleged that one site is located under a soccer field used by a Hezbollah-sponsored team; another is just north of the Rafik Hariri International Airport; and the third is underneath the Beirut port and less than 500 meters from the airport’s tarmac.

These three are not the only facilities that the IDF believes are being used by Hezbollah for the manufacturing and storage of precision missiles.

On Monday, the Israeli military released a video noting that three days had passed since Netanyahu detailed the presence of the alleged facilities.

For its part, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has rejected the allegations made against his country, branding them the latest “nonsense” claim regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in a string of “wrong” claims by Netanyahu dating back to 1992.

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.

An Israeli official rejected this on Friday, saying, “It’s not just documents. There are other things there,” and added: “Did he check it? First of all, let them check.” He noted that it seemed “very important for Iran to hide it, to disperse things across Tehran.”

Raphael Ahren and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report. 

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