IAEA chief rebuffs Netanyahu, says it has ‘visited’ all relevant Iran sites

After PM claims he told UN agency about alleged secret Tehran site, director Amano insists all necessary locations have been accessed

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano of Japan, addresses the media during a news conference after a meeting of the IAEA board of governors at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, June 4, 2018. (Ronald Zak/AP)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano of Japan, addresses the media during a news conference after a meeting of the IAEA board of governors at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, June 4, 2018. (Ronald Zak/AP)

The head of the United Nations’ nuclear agency on Tuesday said 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.

The comments from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week revealed to the UN General Assembly what he said was a previously unknown nuclear site in Tehran, and claimed the IAEA had failed to act on the information even though Israel had provided it earlier.

“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.”

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018, holding up a picture of an alleged Iranian ‘atomic warehouse (Timothy A. Clary/AFP)

The prime minister said the IAEA 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.

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.”

A local businessman speaks to Tasnim news reporter near an alleged secret Iranian nuclear site in the Turquzabad district of Tehran on September 30, 2018. (screen capture: Tasnim)

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.

An image from a placard displayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly showing a suspected “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran containing up to 300 tons of nuclear material. (GPO)

Israel had provided details of the warehouse to the IAEA and to the US administration six weeks ago, but Netanyahu charged that the IAEA failed to act. It was decided after security consultations at the Prime Minister’s Office that Netanyahu would publicize the information at the UN, in the hope of galvanizing the IAEA into action.

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.”

A satellite image released by the Israel Defense Forces showing a sites near Beirut’s international airport that the army says is being used by Hezbollah to convert regular missiles into precision-guided munitions, on September 27, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

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.

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.

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