The United States accuses Iran of using its atomic program as a smokescreen for building nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists the program is solely dedicated to meeting booming domestic demand for electricity. Reuters
By Christian Oliver
TEHRAN - Iran has arrested dozens of spies, including several who passed secrets about its nuclear program to its enemies, Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said on Tuesday.
The United States accuses Iran of using its atomic program as a smokescreen for building nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists the program is solely dedicated to meeting booming domestic demand for electricity.
"The Intelligence Ministry has arrested a number of spies that transferred Iran's nuclear intelligence (abroad)," Yunesi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
Yunesi said most of those arrested were linked to the Iraq-based Iranian opposition group the People's Mujahideen Organization (MKO).
The MKO's political wing, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), made public several undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran in 2002.
But the council denied that any NCRI or MOK informers had been arrested.
Former NCRI spokesman, Alireza Jafarzadeh, who broke the news about the nuclear sites, also said his sources were still at large.
Yunesi did not say when the arrests took place, but his remarks came after Iran's "government week" in which ministries catalog their achievements over a broad timeframe.
"The hypocrites (MKO) had the lead role and they have boasted before about spying against Iran in a press conference in America," he added. "We have identified and arrested dozens of spies on various grounds."
Iranian officials label the MKO hypocrites for losing faith in the 1979 Islamic revolution and the government says the group has killed several prominent politicians since the revolution. Washington lists it as a terrorist group.
The NCRI, now labeled a terrorist organization by Washington, has been the source of much reliable information about Iran's atomic program in recent years, as subsequently proven by U.N. inspections.
INFORMERS STILL AT LARGE
The NCRI's spokesman in Paris, Shahin Gobadi, said in an emailed statement: "The individuals who have been arrested have had nothing to do with the disclosures made by the Iranian Resistance on the mullahs' secret nuclear weapons program.
"The clerical regime's objective is to terrorise and intimidate the personnel of nuclear facilities and prevent them from cooperating with the resistance. These arrests are part of a new wave of crackdowns in Iran in recent weeks."
In August 2002, the NCRI broke the news of two undeclared sites in Iran -- a heavy water production facility at Arak and a massive underground uranium enrichment complex at Natanz that the NCRI and Washington say was intended to produce highly-enriched uranium for weapons.
Tehran later declared these sites to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, but insists they are not linked to a weapons program.
The IAEA Board of Governors meets next month to discuss Iran's nuclear program and a progress report on the agency's inspections, which began shortly after the NCRI's 2002 report.
Jafarzadeh, who lives in Washington, said the arrests were a "hollow show of force right before the upcoming meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors and (are) intended to overshadow the illegal efforts of the Iranian regime to acquire nuclear weapons."
Iran's intelligence ministry said it had nothing to add to the IRNA report.