PM accuses Islamic Republic of lying about alleged atomic facility in Tehran; Gantz calls resumption of work at Fordo a ‘wake-up call for the world’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged Thursday that Iran “continues to lie” about its nuclear program and called on Europe to “stop stalling” and confront the Islamic Republic, as the UN atomic agency reportedly discussed a site in Tehran alleged by Israel to be a secret atomic warehouse.
Netanyahu’s comments also came as Iran resumed uranium enrichment at the Fordo facility in violation of the 2015 international accord limiting its nuclear work.
“A year ago, speaking at the UN, I exposed Iran’s secret nuclear warehouse in Turquzabad. This morning, a special board meeting of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] published its findings on Iran’s activities in the no-longer secret facility. The IAEA now confirms that Iran lied. And that Iran continues to lie,” Netanyahu said in an English-language statement.
The premier was referring to a site in Iran that he flagged during his speech to the UN General Assembly last year. According to Bloomberg, the IAEA’s top inspector has accused Iran of evading attempts to gather information on uranium production at the warehouse, where particles were found earlier this year.
“The IAEA has confirmed that Iran has been violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Netanyahu said. “Iran continues to hide its secret nuclear weapons program.”
He appealed to the world to adopt a more forceful posture toward Iran.
“It’s time for the nations of the world to resist Iran’s aggression and terror. It’s time to snap back sanctions. It’s time to pressure Iran until it changes its ways,” he said. “Iran must stop attacking the nations of the Middle East. Iran must stop threatening to destroy Israel. Europe must stop stalling. It must act against Iranian aggression now.”
Netanyahu released a similar statement in Hebrew, in which he also reiterated that Israel “won’t allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, under any circumstances.”
An unnamed Israeli intelligence official was quoted Thursday by the Kan public broadcaster as saying Iran could break out to a nuclear weapon in under a year.
Iran has not provided an explanation for why uranium was found at the site to the IAEA, which is investigating the facility in the Iranian capital, Reuters reported in September.
In a speech last year at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu revealed the existence of the warehouse in Tehran, which he said held “massive amounts” of equipment and material that were part of a clandestine Iranian nuclear program.
Netanyahu called on the IAEA to inspect the facility and, in July, Israeli television reported that soil samples from the warehouse turned up “traces of radioactive material,” without specifying the type.
Citing two unnamed diplomats, Reuters reported that the material found at the site was determined to be uranium. One of the diplomats, however, said the uranium was not enriched enough to be used for a nuclear bomb.
The report said it was difficult to determine the origin of the uranium since Iran has not provided answers. It noted it was unclear whether the traces came from material at the site before or after the 2015 international deal was signed to limit Tehran’s nuclear program.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear accord last year and reimposed stringent sanctions on Iran. Tehran has subsequently taken a number of steps to roll back its commitment to the accord over what it says is a failure by the deal’s remaining signatories to provide economic relief from the sanctions.
Meanwhile, Iran’s announcement that it would resume enrichment at the Fordo plant drew a chorus of concern from the remaining parties to the troubled agreement and the US called for “serious steps” to be taken, warning that Tehran was “positioning itself to have the option of a rapid nuclear breakout.”
Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz, who is tasked with forming Israel’s next government, called on the international community to tighten sanctions on Iran over the renewed work at Fordo.
The development “is another wake-up call for the world — we must increase pressure and tighten sanctions,” Gantz tweeted. “Iran poses a threat to world peace. Iran poses a threat to stability in the Middle East. Iran poses a threat to Israel.
“There is no such thing as politics when it comes to the Iranian threat — here, we are one, committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” he added.
The exposure of renewed activity at the Fordo reactor is yet another wake-up call to the world – we must increase pressure and tighten sanctions. Iran poses a threat to world peace. Iran poses a threat to stability in the Middle East.
— בני גנץ – Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) November 7, 2019
In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran was obstructing the investigation into the Tehran site identified by Netanyahu. Unidentified diplomats told the newspaper Iran was refusing to provide answers to questions posed by the IAEA, in what was apparently the first instance of Tehran failing to cooperate with inspectors.
The diplomats told the newspaper that the uranium traces were likely remains from Iran’s past experimentation in nuclear weapons development. Iran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons, though Israeli and Western intelligence strongly dispute those assertions. The diplomats said the material’s existence at the site was unlikely to indicate new work on weapons development, but would be a breach of Iran’s commitment to non-proliferation.
Iran has denied that the site was a nuclear facility or served any secretive purpose. In an initial response to Netanyahu’s UN speech, Iranian state media claimed the warehouse was a recycling facility for scrap metal.
Agencies contributed to this report.