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Intelligence minister rebuts 'Iran covert operation' claim

Tehran, Jan 23, IRNA -- Iran's Intelligence Minister Ali Younessi stepped up the war of words with the US Sunday, describing American commandos as 'chicks' as they were said to have been carrying out covert reconnaissance operations inside the Islamic Republic.

"We are eagerly looking for the Americans commandos to come to Iran since they are chicks which would rapidly be picked up by our eagles," he said at a news conference here.

The claim was first made in the New Yorker magazine this month by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, alleging that US operatives were choosing targets inside Iran for future air strikes.

Younessi roundly brushed off the report, saying, "The Americans are stupid, but not so much to make the same mistake which they made in Tabas."

The intelligence minister's was referring to the ill-conceived secret mission, dubbed as Operation Eagle Claw, to rescue US hostages arrested during the heady days of the Islamic Revolution.

In the abortive operation on the night of April 24-25, 1980, a number of C-130 transport airplanes rendezvoused with nine helicopters in a great salt desert of eastern Iran near Tabas.

Two helicopters broke down in a sandstorm and a third one was damaged on landing. The mission was aborted but as the aircraft took off again one helicopter clipped a C-130 and crashed, killing eight US servicemen and injuring more than four.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Asefi said the report was part of a 'psychological warfare' being waged by US officials to make the Europeans abandon their diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

"Such talks did not find any audience across the world, including among the Europeans; even George Bush's own peers rejected them as amounting to the declaration of an all-out war against the entire world," he said.

US Pentagon officials have said the New Yorker report was 'riddled with errors'.

Touching on reports about flight of unidentified aircraft in Iranian airspace, Younessi said, "The flight of these planes are part of the espionage which they (the Americans) carry out; this is nothing new."

Asked what was Iran's reaction, he said, "I am excused from commenting on our reaction, but every action has a reaction."

Younessi said Tehran 'has fortunately defused all espionage operations of the American and Israeli services', especially on the country's nuclear program.

"All the nuclear spies have been identified and caught," he said.

Younesi said last August that several people had been arrested for spying on the country's nuclear program.

"The Information Ministry has arrested several spies who were transferring Iran's nuclear information (out of the country)," he told reporters at a news conference.

Younesi did not identify those arrested, but stated that members of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), which Iran calls Munafeqin (or hypocrites), have passed the bulk of secrets about Iran's nuclear program to the country's enemies.

The minister stressed his ministry's capabilities in uncovering espionage against the Islamic Republic, saying 'we have already arrested tens of spies'.

He did not say when the arrests had taken place.

Asefi said concerted comments by Israeli and American officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, about Israel attacking Iran's nuclear facilities underscored the influence Israel had on US foreign policy.

"Such statements are the two sides of the same coin, attesting to Iran's view that the American policy is chalked out by Tel Aviv and that the Zionist lobby is very strong in America."

Asefi said, "Iran is strong enough to resist such threats."

Tehran insists that its nuclear program is solely aimed at power generation and strongly rejects US claims that the program is a front for building atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, Iranian military commanders have warned of grave consequences if its nuclear facilities were ever attacked.

... Payvand News - 1/23/05 ... --

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