May 1, 2018
France on Tuesday said that it was assessing the Israeli intelligence haul on Iran’s nuclear activity, saying they could form the basis for long-term assurances.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled on Monday what he said was evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program that could encourage the United States to pull out this month of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
“This information should be studied and evaluated in detail,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement.
“The new information presented by Israel could also confirm the need for longer-term assurances on the Iranian program, as the president has proposed.”
Since traveling to the United States last week, French leader Emmanuel Macron has spoken to leaders in Israel, Russia, Britain, Germany and Iran to propose a new negotiation on a wider agreement.
That would tackle Iran’s nuclear activities post-2025 when the existing deal begins to expire, as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional influence.
Intelligence experts and diplomats said Netanyahu’s presentation, in a prime-time television presentation, did not seem to have a “smoking gun” showing a violation by Iran but it could strengthen the hand of advisers to US President Donald Trump who want to scrap the nuclear agreement.
Von der Muhll said the information presented by Netanyahu confirmed in part the non-civilian nature of the program revealed by European powers in 2002, but that it merely proved the need to ensure the nuclear deal and UN inspections remained, given they were among the “most comprehensive and robust in the history of nuclear non-proliferation.”
“It is essential that the IAEA can continue to verify Iran’s respect for JCPOA (nuclear deal) and the peaceful nature of its nuclear program,” she said.
She added that a commission of the countries that agreed the deal – China, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States and Iran – could review the Israeli information.
The IAEA declined on Tuesday to directly address Netanyahu’s accusations against Iran.
“In line with standard IAEA practice, the IAEA evaluates all (nuclear) safeguards-relevant information available to it,” said an agency spokesman. “However, it is not the practice of the IAEA to publicly discuss issues related to any such information.”
In a report issued in December 2015, shortly before the pact went into effect, the IAEA said “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”.
Those activities continued after 2003, though in a less coordinated manner, and there was no credible indication of any beyond 2009, the IAEA said at the time. The spokesman’s statement on Tuesday reiterated the 2015 report’s findings.
Under its 2015 with world powers, Iran curbed its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel to allay concerns it could be put to developing bomb material, and Tehran won relief from most international sanctions in return. UN nuclear inspectors have repeatedly reported that Iran is heeding the terms of the deal.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Netanyahu’s information showed that Iran’s leaders lied to their people about a nuclear weapons program known as “Project Amad”. He declined, however, to say whether the documents provided evidence of a violation of the nuclear deal.
As he traveled back from Amman, Jordan, to Washington on Monday, Pompeo told reporters he and Netanyahu discussed the documents in Tel Aviv during a meeting on Sunday.
Pompeo said that while the existence of the Amad nuclear project was known for some time, the new material discovered by the Israelis will help better understand the scope and scale of the program.
He added that the documents make “very clear that at the very least the Iranians have continued to lie to their own people.”
Asked whether the information indicated a violation of the Iran nuclear agreement, Pompeo responded: “I’ll leave that to lawyers. The president will ultimately have to make a determination about that too.”
Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the international deal unless it is renegotiated by May 12. After Netanyahu spoke, Trump repeated his criticism of the deal, suggesting he backed the Israeli leader’s remarks.
Netanyahu had informed Trump of the documents during a meeting in Washington on March 5, said a senior Israeli official.
The White House later acknowledged receiving the information from Israel, saying it was examining it carefully.
“This information provides new and compelling details about Iran’s efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people,” the White House said in a statement.