Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Iran says it arrested several nuclear spies
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

TEHRAN, Iran
Iran said Tuesday it has arrested dozens of spies, including several people who passed the country's nuclear secrets to Iran's enemies, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi did not identify those arrested but said members of the armed opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq, played the main role.

"The Intelligence Ministry has arrested several spies who were transferring Iran's nuclear secrets out of the country," IRNA quoted Yunesi as saying. He did not provide further details.

"The hypocrites (Mujahedeen) had the leading role in passing information (about Iran's nuclear facilities) and have already said they were proud of spying against Iran," Yunesi was quoted as saying.

The Mujahedeen Khalq claim they were the first to break a story in August 2003 that Iran was secretly developing a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, central Iran. But Tehran says it had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, of the Natanz facility months before the Mujahedeen made their announcement. The IAEA has confirmed Tehran's version.

The group, which seeks to topple Iran's ruling Islamic establishment through the use of force, remains on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations. However, fighters from the armed group who are under U.S. military guard in Iraq have been granted protection as noncombatants.

Iran has repeatedly said it would not give up its nuclear program, including the right to develop the whole nuclear fuel cycle - from extracting uranium ore to enriching it to be used as fuel in nuclear reactors - but was ready to provide "guarantees" it won't build atomic weapons.

Washington claims the Iranian nuclear program is aimed at building atomic weapons, but Tehran says is directed at generating electricity.



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