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Netanyahu accuses Iran of destroying secret nuclear facility

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rejected the allegations, saying the Israeli premier is pushing for war
Netanyahu said Tehran "conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons" at the site south of Isfahan (Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of destroying a secret facility where it had been developing nuclear weapons, a claim that was quickly rejected by Iran's foreign minister.

Speaking during a televised address on Monday, just one week before elections are held in Israel, Netanyahu said the Iranian facility was located near the city of Abadeh, south of Isfahan.

"In this site, Iran conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons," he said, showing an aerial picture of several small buildings, including their coordinates, that he said were taken at the facility in late June.

He said Iran destroyed the site sometime between late June and late July after Israel found out about its existence.

Netanyahu did not specify what nuclear experiments were carried out there, or when, AFP news agency reported.

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"I call on the international community to wake up, to realise that Iran is systematically lying," said the Israeli premier.

An ally of US President Donald Trump who is fervently anti-Iran, Netanyahu's comments come amid ongoing diplomatic tensions between Iran and the United States, which last year withdrew from a multilateral Iran nuclear accord.

The Israeli leader's allegations were quickly rejected on Monday by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who instead accused Netanyahu of beating the drums of war.

"The possessor of REAL nukes cries wolf - on an ALLEGED 'demolished' site in Iran," Zarif tweeted, referring to the fact that Israel is the Middle East's sole possessor of nuclear weapons.

"He & #B_Team just want a war, no matter innocent blood & another $7 TRILLION," the foreign minister added.

Zarif has regularly used the phrase "B Team" to refer to hawkish members of the Trump administration, including national security adviser John Bolton, who have taken an increasingly hardline stance against Iran.

Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, and later imposed a series of crippling economic sanctions on several of the country's key industries.

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Under the landmark nuclear deal, the Iranian government had agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

In May, Iran said it would begin to pull out of some of its commitments under the agreement in response to the US's withdrawal.

Iranian leaders have also urged European countries to protect the country from the effects of Washington's sanctions.

Despite the ongoing tensions, Trump on Monday said that a meeting with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani "could happen".

"Sure, anything's possible," he told reporters at the White House.

Rouhani previously said that Iran won't agree to direct talks with the US.

He has said, however, that Washington could join in multilateral discussions with Iran and other countries, but only when it lifts its sanctions against the country.

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