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Netanyahu accuses Iran of maintaining a 'secret atomic warehouse'

Israeli prime minister calls on United Nations nuclear inspectors to carry out work on facilities near Tehran.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran on Thursday of keeping a "secret atomic warehouse" just outside its capital and called on UN nuclear inspectors to carry out inspections.

Holding up enlarged images before world leaders at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu said Iranian officials were keeping tonnes of nuclear equipment and material in a warehouse, in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.

He said the materials were meant to keep it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

There was no immediate comment from Iran.

Netanyahu's disclosure - which he presented as a big reveal on the international community's biggest stage - came four months after he announced the existence of what he said was a "half-tonne" of Iranian nuclear documents obtained by Israeli intelligence from a government facility in Tehran.

The prime minister said the cache proved Iranian leaders covered up their nuclear weapons programme before signing the nuclear agreement.

Iran has not acknowledged the alleged seizure.

"You have to ask yourself a question: Why did Iran keep a secret atomic archive and a secret atomic warehouse?" he asked.

"The reason Iran did not destroy its atomic archive and its atomic warehouse is because it hasn't abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons," he said.     

"Israel will never let a regime that calls for our destruction to develop nuclear weapons," Netanyahu added.

"What Iran hides, Israel will find."

The new site Netanyahu identified sits a short distance from Shourabad district outside the capital, Tehran.

There was no immediate official response from Tehran. Iran's mission to the UN did not respond to a request for comment.

Iran's state-run, English-language Press TV channel carried Netanyahu's remarks live, but cut away after he made the allegation about the nuclear warehouse.

Many centrifuges

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal came after years of Western sanctions over the country's contested atomic program. The West long has feared it could be used to build nuclear bombs. Iran long has denied seeking atomic weapons.

Under terms of the deal, Iran is allowed to keep documents and other research.

The deal strictly limits how many centrifuges Iran can use and how large of a low-enriched uranium stockpile the country can keep.

Netanyahu said the warehouse stored "massive amounts of equipment and materiel".

He said Israel shared the information with the UN atomic watchdog, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. The agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Netanyahu noted Israel had long opposed the multi-national agreement with Iran.

Israel considers Iran its biggest threat, citing Tehran's calls for Israel's destruction, its support for hostile militant organisations such as the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah group, and Iran's development of long-range missiles.

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