Iran dismisses Netanyahu's 'secret atomic warehouse' claim
KONFRONTASI-Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has dismissed Israeli claims that Tehran 'has a secret atomic warehouse'.
In a tweet on Friday, Zarif derided as an "arts and crafts show" the allegation made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
Displaying maps and a photo of an outwardly "innocent looking compound", Netanyahu said Iran has been keeping 300 tonnes of nuclear equipment and material in a property near its capital.
He argued this showed Iran still sought to obtain nuclear weapons, despite its 2015 agreement with world powers to curb its programme in exchange for loosening of sanctions.
Denouncing Netanyahu's claim, Zarif said: "No arts & craft show will ever obfuscate that Israel is only regime in our region with a *secret* and *undeclared* nuclear weapons program."
He told Israel it was "time to fess up and open its illegal nuclear weapons" programme to international inspectors.
Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal but has never publicly acknowledged it.
"The only purpose of this is to undercut the reality that Israel is the biggest threat to the region," he was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.
Bahram Qassemi, spokesperson for Iran's foreign ministry, also dismissed Netanyahu's claims as "ridiculous and baseless", according to the Isna news agency.
Qassemi noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had certified Iran's nuclear programme as peaceful 12 times in the past three years.
Netanyahu's comments in New York come four months after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord, arguing it did too little to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions and triggering the resumption of US economic sanctions on Iran.
An outspoken opponent of the deal, Netanyahu has previously made allegations about Iran's nuclear activities that are difficult or impossible to verify, including presenting a cartoon bomb to the General Assembly in 2012 warning of how close Tehran was to producing a nuclear device.
In April, Netanyahu presented what he said was evidence of a large secret archive of documents related to Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons programme at a different site in Tehran.
He said Israeli agents removed vast amounts of documents from that site. At the time, Iran said the documents were fake.[mr/aje]