Netanyahu, head of IAEA spar over Iran nuke inspection locations

Netanyahu's UN speech triggered pushback from Amano, and Lebanon's president who vows to protect his country "sovereignty."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivering a speech at the UNGA in New York on September 27th, 2018. (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivering a speech at the UNGA in New York on September 27th, 2018.
(photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s UN address last Thursday continues to make waves, with the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency refusing to take at face value evidence presented by the prime minister about a secret atomic warehouse in Tehran, and Lebanon’s president saying Netanyahu’s allegations of Hezbollah precision missiles in his country were false.
“The agency sends inspectors to sites and locations only when needed. The agency uses all safeguards relevant to information available to it but it does not take any information at face value,” International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said in a statement on Tuesday.
Netanyahu accuses Iran of concealing nuclear material for weapons program, September 27, 2018 (Reuters)
Amano’s statement made no specific reference to Israel or Netanyahu’s comments but it is his first public pronouncement since Netanyahu’s speech. He said the IAEA has carried out so-called complementary access inspections, which are often at short notice, at all locations in Iran it has needed to visit.
“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,” Amano said.
“In order to maintain credibility, the agency’s independence in relation to the implementation of verification activities is of paramount importance,” he added.
But Netanyahu urged the IAEA to do much more. A statement released from his office in response to Amano’s comments said the IAEA chief’s comment was related to inspections the agency has carried out in different sites in Iran, but does not deal with the specific site the prime minister revealed in his UN speech.
“There is no reason to wait,” the statement said. “The IAEA should inspect the site and immediately send inspectors there with Geiger counters, and the prime minister’s words will be proven to be true.”
During his UN speech, Netanyahu said that he was disclosing for the first time that Iran has “a secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material for Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.”
Netanyahu then held up a map of where the site is located in the Turkuzahbad District of Tehran, and then a picture of the building which he said houses the facility. He said Iranian officials are “desperately trying” to empty it of radioactive material.
Turning directly to Amano, whom he called a “good man,” Netanyahu called on him to “do the right thing” and “go inspect this atomic warehouse. Immediately. Before the Iranians finish clearing it out.”
In another part of the speech, Netanyahu turned to the situation in Lebanon, and said that Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles.
He also held up an aerial photo showing where those sites were allegedly located, two of them near Beirut’s international airport, and a third underneath a nearby soccer stadium.
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun dismissed Netanyahu’s claims in a tweet on Tuesday, saying they were “unfounded and conceal a new Israeli threat to Lebanese sovereignty.”
He added, “Lebanon will face any Israeli aggression against its sovereignty.”
His comments came a day after the Lebanese Foreign Ministry held a tour for foreign diplomats of the sites Netanyahu mentioned in an attempt to dispel them.
Netanyahu slammed that tour as “propaganda,” and said that while the Lebanese took the diplomats to the soccer stadium, they did not show them the “nearby underground factory to manufacture precision missiles.”
The ambassadors who joined the tour, Netanyahu said, need to ask themselves why the Lebanese waited three days before putting together the tour. “Hezbollah always cleans up sites that are revealed,” he explained.
He added: “It is unfortunate that the Lebanese government is sacrificing the peace of its citizens to cover for Hezbollah, which has taken Lebanon hostage to its aggression against Israel.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman hinted that Israel has much more it can reveal about Iran and Lebanon, when it finds it convenient to do so.
“We have a lot more information in our hand and at a time of our choosing, when it is convenient, we will reveal additional facilities, both in Iran and Beirut,” Liberman told reporters while touring the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron.
Liberman dismissed attempts by Lebanon to disavow such claims by brining diplomats and journalists to the site as a work of “fiction,” noting that the tour was given 72 hours after Netanyahu spoke of the missile sites.
“Next time they should bring journalists there immediately,” he said.
Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed to this report