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Iran says several arrested for spying on nuclear plan

TEHRAN -- Iran said yesterday it had arrested a group of spies, including several who passed the country's nuclear secrets to the country's foes, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi did not name any of the arrested but said members of the Mujahedin-E-Khalq, an armed opposition group, were the main players in the spy operation.

"The Intelligence Ministry has arrested several spies who were transferring Iran's nuclear secrets out of the country," the news agency quoted Yunesi as saying. He provided no other details.

"The hypocrites [Mujahedin-E-Khalq] 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 Mujahedin-E-Khalq contend 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 UN nuclear watchdog agency, about the Natanz facility months earlier. The IAEA has confirmed Tehran's version.

In Paris, Shahin Gobadi, a press spokesman of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said that the individuals arrested had nothing to do with any disclosures made by the Iranian resistance.

"By resorting to such a hollow show of force, the mullahs are trying, on the one hand, to cover up their drive to acquire nuclear weapons and their violation of international treaties and, on the other hand, to compensate for the blows they have received from the resistance," said Gobadi, whose group calls itself an umbrella for the Iranian resistance movement but is believed to be the political arm of the Mujahedin-E-Khalq.

The Mujahedin-E-Khalq, which seeks to topple Iran's ruling Islamic establishment by force, remains on the US State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

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