The Iranian authorities say they have arrested more than 30 people on suspicion of spying for the United States.
A report broadcast on the state television lunchtime news bulletin on Saturday said Iran‘s secret service had succeeded in unearthing a CIA-run spy network operating in the country.
The intelligence ministry said in a statement that the spy ring was trying to recruit Iranians to produce intelligence on research institutes, universities, nuclear programs and other sites in the Islamic Republic.
According to the semi-official Fars news agency, the suspects passed information to US officials at embassies and consulates in countries including Malaysia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
It said Iranian counter-intelligence officers identified 42 CIA agents in such countries, saying: “They engage in collection of information regarding Iran’s nuclear, aerospace defence and bio-technology fields,” among other areas of interest.
Spying in Iran can carry the death penalty.
Washington has had no diplomatic presence in Iran since the 1979 revolution that installed the Islamist regime. Diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks showed the United States operated information-gathering desks in neighbouring countries where diplomats would seek to get information from travelling Iranians.
The announcement of the arrests comes two days after President Barack Obama made a speech on the Middle East, reiterating Washington’s view that Tehran sponsors terrorism and is seeking nuclear weapons.