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Iran Arrests Suspected Turkish Spies Amid Diplomatic Row

April 25, 1996

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Authorities have arrested several Iranians suspected of spying for Turkey, a newspaper close to the government said Thursday, adding a new dimension to a diplomatic quarrel that began earlier this month.

The English-language Tehran Times quoted an unidentified Information Ministry official as saying ``members of five espionage networks spying for the Turkish government (have been) arrested.″

The newspaper said the alleged spies were Iranians who ``were directly conducted by Turkish diplomats residing in Tehran, Tabriz and Orumiyeh.″

The spies’ mission was to sow discord among the Christian Armenian minority in mainly Shiite Muslim Iran, most of whom live in Turkish-speaking regions in western Iran, the paper said.

A Turkish government official, speaking on condition of anonymity Thursday, called the Iranian claims a ``total fabrication.″

Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution brought a fundamentalist Muslim government to power, Tehran’s ties with Muslim but secular Turkey have been strained.

Earlier this month, Turkey accused Iran of having a hand in the killings of Iranian dissidents in Turkey. Iran retaliated by accusing four Turkish diplomats of organizing a spy ring in western Iran, and called for their expulsion, which in turn led to the eviction of four Iranian diplomats from Turkey.

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