VIENNA, Austria — The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog Tuesday refused to “take at face value” Israel’s claims that Iran is harboring a secret atomic warehouse, fending off pressure to inspect the allegedly suspect site. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the claim in front of the U.N. General Assembly last week.
Without explicitly referring to Netanyahu’s claim, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano insisted that the agency’s independence was “of paramount importance” for its work.
The IAEA “uses all safeguards-relevant information available to it but it does not take any information at face value,” Amano said in a statement.
Netanyahu accused Iran of operating a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program.”
He urged the IAEA to inspect the site.
Amano said the IAEA would not be told how to do its work.
“All information obtained, including from third parties, is subject to rigorous review,” he said, adding that the IAEA “must always be impartial, factual, and professional.”
Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to scale down its nuclear activities and submit to IAEA inspections in exchange for relief from sanctions.
Israel bitterly opposes the deal and congratulated U.S. President Donald Trump for his decision to walk away from it earlier this year. In April Netanyahu tried to shake up the debate over the Iran nuclear deal by showing off alleged evidence of Iran’s past nuclear weapons program seized in an Israeli raid. Netanyahu said flatly, in a dramatic presentation in English, that “Iran lied” about its nuclear ambitions.
He claimed that a secret archive taken from a warehouse in Tehran included plans to build atomic warheads.
The IAEA — the entity tasked with inspecting and verifying Iran’s compliance with the terms of the 2015 agreement — issued a statement, however, indicating that Israel’s trove of Iranian archives did not appear to change the understanding of what the Islamic Republic did, or when.
“The Agency’s overall assessment was that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003. The Agency also assessed that these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities,” the agency said in a written statement. “The same report stated that the Agency had no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009.”
The IAEA has repeatedly said that Iran is continuing to meet its commitments under the deal.
Amano said on Tuesday that evaluations of Iran’s compliance were “ongoing.”