Iran orders military to 'stand ready': Fears of attack on nuclear sites

Posted in Iran | 23-Dec-04 | Source: (Pakistan)

TEHRAN, Dec 22: The Iranian military has been ordered to stand ready to defend the country's nuclear sites in case of attack, army chief General Mohammad Salimi said on Wednesday.

"The air force has been ordered to protect the nuclear sites, using all its power," Mr Salimi said, quoted by the government daily Iran. "The air force has temporarily suspended all its manoeuvres and focused its means on patrolling the sky," he added.

"All our forces including land forces, anti-aircraft, radar tactics ... are protecting the nuclear sites and an attack on them will not be simple," the general said.

American newspapers and the regional press have speculated over a possible US or Israeli attack on the nuclear sites of Iran, which the Jewish state and Washington suspect of working to develop the bomb. US and Israeli officials have denied any such plans.

SPIES' ARREST: Ten people arrested on suspicion of spying on Iran's nuclear programme were working for US and Israeli intelligence services, Intelligence Minister Ali Yunessi said on Wednesday.

"More than 10 nuclear spies were arrested during the current (Iranian) year," which started on March 20, Mr Yunessi said, quoted by the official news agency IRNA. "Three of them were working for the (Iranian) Atomic Energy Organization, the rest of them were not public servants ... They were working for the CIA and Mossad. They were arrested in Tehran and Hormuzgan," in southern Iran, he said.

"They are currently in the custody of the revolutionary court, and we will not announce their names before their trials ... There is no prominent person among them," Mr Yunessi added.

In August, Mr Yunessi announced the arrest of a number of spies who sent information on Iran's nuclear programme to foreigners. He said the People's Mujahedeen, an armed opposition group based in Iraq that Tehran labels as "hypocrites", had played the central role in the espionage.

The group's political wing, the National Council for Resistance in Iran, in 2002 revealed two nuclear sites Iran had been hiding, including a uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz.

Last month the group alleged Iran was hiding a uranium enrichment facility in Tehran and aimed at getting the atomic bomb next year. The group also said Pakistani scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan delivered bomb designs and weapons-grade highly enriched uranium to Iran. Tehran insists that its nuclear activities are purely peaceful.

GAS FLOW: Iran resumed the flow of natural gas to Turkey on Wednesday after a cut for technical reasons that lasted several days, Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said.

"A new pipeline has become operational in Iran. They (Iranian officials) said this was a problem. The cut was purely technical," Guler told the Anatolia news agency. -AFP