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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Iran brands Netanyahu 'scandalous liar' over nuclear archive

Tehran's officials called Israeli leader the 'boy who cries wolf' after announcement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he describes how Iran has continued with its nuclear capabilities with the purpose of making atomic weapons, in the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, 30 April 2018. Jim Hollander / EPA
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he describes how Iran has continued with its nuclear capabilities with the purpose of making atomic weapons, in the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, 30 April 2018. Jim Hollander / EPA

Iran on Tuesday responded fiercely to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim a day earlier that the country was developing a "secret" nuclear weapons programme in breach of the 2015 deal agreed with world powers.

The archive of tens of thousands of records and files was a "ridiculous propaganda" stunt that was the latest in the "fruitless efforts of a bankrupt and scandalous liar", Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said in a statement, referring to the Israeli leader.

Mr Netanyahu, in a surprise announcement from the Israeli military headquarters on Monday, paraded in front of a large LED screen and thousands of files that he said weighed "half a tonne".

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Read more: Israel claims to have proof of 'secret' Iran nuclear programme

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The intelligence coup for Israel's Mossad spy agency was met with criticism in Tehran, where officials turned the tables on Israel, saying that the findings were false.

Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister, tweeted after the speech on Monday: "Pres. Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to 'nix' the deal. How convenient. Coordinated 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".

It was also met with scepticism online, where observers said that Mr Netanyahu's theatrics had not provided the "smoking gun" evidence that Iran had breached the 2015 deal, a development that would ultimately draw the US out of the agreement.

Iran denies seeking the development of a nuclear weapon after the 2015 deal.

Israel's intelligence claim came before a much-anticipated decision by US President Donald Trump on whether Washington will remain a part of the deal agreed to rein in Iran's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of crippling international sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Mr Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the discovery was justification for their government's criticism of the agreement.

The president said on Monday that pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal would not have a negative impact on his upcoming nuclear talks with North Korea and claimed he would be open to negotiating a new nuclear accord with Tehran.

“I think it sends the right message,” Mr Trump told a news conference when asked if pulling out of the Iran deal would send the wrong message to Pyongyang. “You know in seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons.”

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Analysis: Netanyahu presentation plays into Trump’s hands to exit nuclear deal

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He has called for it to be revised, saying that the current agreement is one of the worst in history. European allies have increased pressure on the American leader to remain part of the agreement but he says that it has handed back hundreds of millions to the Iranian regime that it can use to sponsor terrorism across the Middle East.

Iran is accused of sponsoring proxy groups across the region, particularly in Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza.

The war of words between Israel and Iran comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries in Syria, where Israeli jets are suspected of striking pro-government fighters at a base in northern Syria on Sunday.

Iran is Israel's arch-enemy and Mr Netanyahu has vowed to neutralise its presence in Syria on its northern border. Iran is supporting the government of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad alongside the Russian military to help the dictator reclaim territory lost to rebels in the civil war that is now in its seventh year.