Israels opposition says prime ministers claims are an election campaign stunt
Benjamin Netanyahu has unveiled what he claims was a previously undisclosed Iranian nuclear weapons facility and accused Tehran of destroying the site to hide the evidence.
This is what I have to say to the tyrants of Tehran, Netanyahu said. Israel knows what youre doing, Israel knows when youre doing it, and Israel knows where youre doing it.
Without providing details, he accused Iran of using the facility near the city of Abadeh to conductexperiments to develop nuclear weapons.
The Israeli prime minister was immediately accused of using sensitive intelligence to appear statesmanlike, just a week ahead of next Tuesdays election.
Fighting a fierce reelection battle, Netanyahu has repeatedly promoted himself as the only leader capable of dealing with global security threats. His hastily-gathered press conference, televised during primetime evening slot, showed satellite photos from June of the site near the central Iranian city.
He said the facility was destroyed in July, after the Iranians realised they had been discovered, but it was not clear why he waited until now to disclose the details.
Netanyahus use of sensitive security information for propaganda proves that his judgment is flawed, said Benny Gantz, the head of the main opposition party, Blue and White. Even in his last days as prime minister, Netanyahu worries only about Netanyahu.
Gantzs running mate, Yair Lapid, accused the prime minister of shocking national irresponsibility, adding, the Iranian nuclear program cannot be used for campaign shenanigans.
Irans foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, responded to Netanyahu on Twitter, referring to him as the possessor of real nukes who cries wolf on an alleged demolished site in Iran.
Zarif did not address Netanyahus claims about Abadeh but accused the Israeli prime minister of wanting another war.
In April 2018, Netanyahu made a similar announcement, claiming that Israel had discovered tens of thousands of documents from what he called Irans Atomic Archives, which he presented as new evidence. However, key documents had been made public years earlier in 2011 by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
That presentation was seen as also having a public relations element. But that time it appeared directed at Donald Trump, pressuring the US president to pull out of the 2015 nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, which he did less than two weeks later.
Netanyahu had lobbied hard against the Obama-era agreement that lifted some sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme, labelling it from the outset as a bad mistake of historic proportions.
The IAEA and US intelligence services have said for years that Iran halted organised efforts at exploring nuclear weapons in 2003. Netanyahu did not make clear whether the alleged nuclear weapons work at the facility was before this date, nor he did make clear what kind of nuclear weapons work the Iranians are alleged to have conducted there
Reuters news agency reported on Sunday that the nuclear watchdog had found traces of uranium at a separate facility that Netanyahu revealed in another announcement a year ago, calling it a secret atomic warehouse. It was not clear if the traces were remnants of material that predate the landmark 2015 deal.
Mondays announcement also comes as world powers have expressed interest in a renewed dialogue with Iran, something Netanyahu sees as counterproductive. Trump has even suggested he could meet with Irans president, Hassan Rouhani.
Iran and three European countries Britain, France and Germany have been engaged in talks to save the landmark 2015 accord. The three countries insist that it remains the best way to prevent nuclear proliferation in the region.
Iran has taken steps away from the deal since Trump pulled out. On Wednesday, Rouhani, said the country would expand its work on new centrifuges for enriching uranium.
During a visit to London, Netanyahu said: This is not the time to hold talks with Iran. This is the time to increase the pressure on Iran.
Responding to the suggestion that his brief visit to the UK was designed to boost his electoral appeal, Netanyahu said: Those delusional claims are a lie. I dont profiteer with our security.