An Iranian official claimed Tuesday that state security forces arrested a number of spies in the southern province of Bushehr, home to the country’s sole nuclear power plant.
According to Iranian media, the Islamic Republic’s Intelligence Minister, Seyed Mahmoud Alawi, claimed the suspects were engaged in surveillance and intelligence gathering, adding that the alleged agents had been serving foreign intelligence services.
“Thanks to the vigilance of the Intelligence Ministry forces who monitor the moves of the foreign intelligence services, some agents who intended to carry out surveillance and intelligence gathering for the foreigners in Bushehr province have been identified and sent to justice,” Alawi said, according to the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency.
It was not clear how many people were arrested.
Last month, Iranian authorities arrested a Ukrainian national suspected of sabotage at the Bushehr power plant, according to Iranian media.
The report in the Hamshahri daily said the “Ukrainian expert” was affiliated with a Russian contractor that works in the plant, which went online in 2011 with Russian aid.
The report did not elaborate on the timing or nature of the alleged sabotage. Iran has long accused the United States, Israel and European countries of working to sabotage its nuclear program.
International sanctions force Iran to buy Western-made parts for its nuclear program from third parties. Hamshahri suggested such parties are involved in sabotaging parts before they arrive in Iran, without elaborating.
In 2010, the so-called Stuxnet virus temporarily disrupted the operation of thousands of centrifuges, key components in nuclear fuel production, at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Iran says it and other computer virus attacks are part of a concerted effort by Israel, the US and their allies to undermine its nuclear program through covert operations.
The US and its allies suspect Iran is covertly seeking the ability to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies such allegations, insisting its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and aimed at generating electricity and producing medical isotopes.
Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers — the US, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany — are holding talks aimed at reaching a comprehensive agreement by November that would curb Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.