US official urges nuclear 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 Iranian capital during a speech Thursday before the U.N. General Assembly in New York, saying the warehouse was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret weapons program.” The equipment and material, he said, was being moved to other parts of the city.

The Israeli leader 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.”

An unnamed U.S. diplomatic source quoted by the Israel Broadcasting Corp. said that “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.”

Israel had opposed the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Iran and seven world powers, including the United States, that offered Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for its dialing back of parts of its nuclear program. In May, President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal, reintroducing sanctions both on Iran and on companies doing business with it.

The renewed sanctions and other developments have 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 $1 in September 2016.

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