Israel claims Iran is still expanding its nuclear weapons research

The White House says Israel's information confirms "what the United States has long known"

Israel claims Iran is still expanding its nuclear weapons research

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv, 30-04-2018. Image: JINI/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Israel has accused Iran of lying about a nuclear weapons programme.

The country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran has continued to preserve and expand the programme - despite signing a deal in 2015 to curb such ambitions in return for reduced sanctions.

Iran insists the allegation is “ridiculous” - and designed to affect US President Donald Trump’s decision on whether to scrap the agreement.

In a statement, the White House said the Israeli claims provided “new and compelling details” about Tehran's efforts to develop “missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.”

“These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known,” said the statement.

“Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons programme that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people.”

Iran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons, and agreed to curb its nuclear energy programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

The EU has noted that the Israeli claims only relate to the history of Iran's weapons programme - and do not suggest the country is in violation of the international nuclear agreement.

It comes after Mr Netanyahu delivered a slide show presentation claiming Iran was "brazenly lying" about the history of its nuclear weapons programme.

He said Iran continued to preserve and expand its nuclear weapons knowledge for future use after signing the 2015 nuclear deal, officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The deal agreed with Tehran and six global powers restricts Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief on economic sanctions against the country.

All of the signatories to the agreement are nuclear-armed, except Germany.

In his presentation, Mr Netanyahu said the deal had simply prompted the country to intensify its efforts to hide its secret files.

Iran deal

President Trump has described the Israeli leader's presentation as "good" and said Iran's behaviour was "just not an acceptable situation."

In a meeting with the French President at the White House last week he described the deal as “insane” and called for a new agreement with Iran.

has previously called the landmark deal "one of the worst and most one-sided" agreements the US has ever signed.

He has set a 12th May deadline to decide whether to pull out of the deal.

Speaking last night he said: “You know in seven years that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons.”

“That is not acceptable.

“Seven years is tomorrow. That is not acceptable.”

Crying wolf

However, Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif said Mr Netanyahu's allegations are old and have already been dealt with by the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Mr Zarif tweeted: "BREAKING: The boy who can't stop crying wolf is at it again. Undeterred by cartoon fiasco at UNGA. You can only fool some of the people so many times."

He added: "Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to "nix" the deal.

"How convenient. Co-ordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump's impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover."

No violation

The views of President Trump and Mr Netanyahu are also at odds with those of the European Union.

The EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said Israel's allegations suggest Tehran once pursued nuclear weapons but offer nothing to prove the country is currently violating the nuclear agreement.

"What I have seen from the first reports is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not put into question Iran's compliance," she said.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Washington of trying to stoke a "regional crisis" by provoking its ally Saudi Arabia to confront Tehran.

"Americans are trying to provoke Saudi Arabia against Tehran," he said.

"Their aim is to create more regional crisis... to push Muslims to fight against Muslims.

"If these governments gain more wisdom, they will not confront Iran. If they confront Iran, they will be defeated."

Mr Netanyahu's statement came after a missile strike on government outposts in northern Syria on Sunday night, which reportedly killed several Iranians.

The strikes sparked speculation that Israel may have carried them out amid soaring tensions with Iran.

With reporting from IRN ...