Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK


World: Middle East

Israel denies Iranian spy allegations

Ehud Barak: Denial "with complete certainty"

The Israeli Prime Minister-designate, Ehud Barak, has denied that 13 Iranian Jews facing trial in Iran on spying charges were ever involved in illegal activities.

Mr Barak said he was speaking "with complete certainty" because he was the former head of the Israeli Army intelligence branch and a former member of the forum of intelligence service heads.

The Iranian Government announced on Thursday that it would try the 13 on charges of spying for Israel and the United States.

The head of the Iranian judiciary, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, told worshippers in Tehran on Friday that the authorities were carefully investigating their activities. He confirmed that they could face the death penalty if convicted.

Criticism from the West

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described the arrests as "unacceptable". British Foreign Office Minister Geoff Hoon also expressed concern. He said Britain was consulting its EU partners on the issue and would be raising its concerns with the Iranian government.

Mr Barak said he had asked the United Nations General Secretary, Kofi Annan, to take urgent measures to obtain the release of the detainees.

But the English-language Tehran Times warned other countries not to interfere in the case.

"The US call for the release of the spies is flagrant interference in Iran's internal affairs," said the paper.


[ image: President Khatami: trying to build bridges with the US]
President Khatami: trying to build bridges with the US
It reminded Washington that one of Iran's preconditions for rapprochement after 20 years of frosty relations was "its pledge not to meddle in Iran's internal affairs"

The 13 were arrested in February and March in the southern province of Fars. Western governments learnt of the detentions, but remained silent in the hope that this would improve the chances of an early release.

There are 27,000 Jews in Iran, and Judaism is an official minority religion.

Some Western diplomats suspect that the arrests could be an attempt by hardline conservatives opposed to Iranian President Mohammed Khatami to prevent any improvement in Iranian-US relations.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©




Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia



Relevant Stories

02 Jun 99 | Middle East
Iran's conservatives go on the offensive

24 May 99 | Middle East
Khatami praises 'courageous' Clinton

29 Apr 99 | Middle East
Iranian president blasts hardliners

24 Apr 99 | Middle East
Iran 'violates' human rights





Internet Links


President Mohammed Khatami

Tehran TImes

US State Department


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Safety chief deplores crash speculation

Iraq oil-for-food aid extended

Israel demands soccer sex scandal inquiry

Israeli PM's plane in accident

Jordan police stop trades unionists prayers

New Israeli raid in southern Lebanon

New demand over PLO terror list

Earthquake hits Iran

New UN decision on Iraq approved

Algerian president pledges reform