UNITED NATIONS – The Iranian government, reacting to a blistering speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations today, demanded that Jerusalem open its own nuclear installations to inspection before telling Tehran do so.
Using the U.N.’s “right of reply,” Iran’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Eshagh al Habib, told the General Assembly the Israeli prime minister “has admitted to the possession of nuclear weapons which has been repeatedly stated by the 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement ‘poses a serious and continuing threat to the security of states in the region.’”
“Instead of making baseless allegations,” he said, “this regime has ignored repeated calls by the international community to accede promptly and without any conditions to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons party and place all its nuclear-related facilities under the International Atomic Energy Agency verification system. … The international community should continue to exert the utmost pressure on this regime.”
The Iranians have long claimed to be sponsoring a movement to free the Middle East of any atomic weapons.
Israel, its conventional forces vastly outnumbered by neighboring Arabs, has long seen its nuclear stockpile as an equalizer should a new war erupt in the region.
Published reports claim Jerusalem has manufactured more than 200 low-yield nuclear warheads that have been stockpiled in a desert facility in the Negev.
The nuclear facility, near the hamlet of Dimona, has had sporadic visits by U.N. inspectors, but nothing unusual has ever been uncovered.
Late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein tried unsuccessfully to rocket bomb the Dimona facility in the 1991 Gulf War.
Today, the Dimona base is protected by the Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Iron Dome is a successor to the Patriot missile system first unveiled during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
A group of Israeli diplomats sat stone-faced throughout the Iranian rebuttal, deciding not to challenge it.
The U.S.-U.N. mission did not attend the late-night General Assembly session.