Iran says it uncovered U.S.-Israeli spy network, detained suspects

By Haaretz Service and Reuters


Shvat 21, 5767

Iran's intelligence minister said Thursday the government had detected a network of U.S and Israeli spies, and detained a second of people who planned to go abroad for espionage training, state television reported.

But the minister, Gjholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, did not say any members of the U.S.-Israeli network had been arrested, and nor did he say who the
would-be spies would have worked for.

The TV newscaster quoted the minster as telling a group of clerics in the holy city of Qom, 120 kilometers south of Tehran, that the first group of spies were agents of the CIA and Mossad espionage services.

"This group was detected and they are in our intelligence net, he said of the spies," implying that they were under surveillance.

The minister said the network had been active along the Iranian border, but did not say which border. Iran has frontiers with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

Referring to the second group, he said the government had detained some Iranians who planned to go abroad to attend a training course in espionage.

He did not say how many people were detained nor which country would have
trained and employed them.

The minister's remarks came at a time of heightened tension between Iran and the international community, led by the United States.

The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions because of Iran's refusal to cease uranium enrichment, and is due to consider strengthening later this month.

Khamenei says Iran will target U.S. interests if attacked
Earlier Thursday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday the Islamic Republic would target U.S. interests around the world if it came under attack, state television reported.

Iran and the United States are locked in a dispute over Tehran's nuclear program, which Washington says is being used to build atomic bombs. U.S. officials say they want diplomacy to end the standoff but have not ruled out force if that fails.

"The enemies know well that any aggression will lead to a reaction from all sides in the Iranian nation on the aggressors and their interests around the world," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television.

"We believe that no one will make such an unwise and wrong move (to attack Iran) that would endanger their country and interests. Some say that the U.S. president is not the type who acts based on calculations or thinks about the consequences of his action. But even these people can be brought to their senses," he said.

U.S. President George Bush has said he has no intention of invading Iran, though he has pledged to step up pressure on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program and what Washington calls Iran's meddling in Iraq.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is purely civilian and says it is not backing militants in Iraq.

Earlier Thursday, Iran's state broadcaster reported that the Revolutionary Guard test-fired missiles in wargames on Thursday which a commander said could sink "big warships" in the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and the north of the Indian Ocean.

Iran is at loggerheads with the United States over its disputed nuclear program and what Washington calls its meddling in Iraq. The United States has ordered a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf to step up pressure on Iran.

"These missiles, with a maximum range of 350 km, can hit different kinds of big warships in all of the Persian Gulf, all of the Sea of Oman and the north of the Indian Ocean," senior Revolutionary Guards naval commander Ali Fadavi said.

Fadavi was also quoted by the state broadcaster's Web site as saying that the warhead of this missile had the capacity to sink "all kinds of big warships."

State television reported that the missile tests, staged on the second day of wargames by the Guards' naval and air units, were "to show that Iran is able to confront any possible threats."

The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies. Tehran also dismisses allegations that it is backing militants in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Iran said it successfully tested anti-aircraft missiles, which it received from Russia.