Thu, Apr 19, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Israel accuses Iran of trying to recruit Israeli-Iranian spies

AP , JERUSALEM

Israel has charged that Iran is trying to recruit Israelis visiting relatives in the Islamic republic as spies, throwing light on a strange anomaly -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map" as he pushes forward with a nuclear program.

Israeli Jews are nevertheless still allowed to visit family in Iran.

Israeli security officials said on Tuesday that Shin Bet agents had detained an Israeli returning from a visit to relatives among Iran's 25,000-strong Jewish community.

He told interrogators he was given money by Iranian intelligence operatives and asked to help them spy on Israel.

Shin Bet briefing documents did not specify when the man was picked up, if he carried out the request or if he was released after questioning, but Israeli media reports said no charges had been brought.

The documents said, however, that this was only one among several similar incidents.

PAST YEAR

"Over the past year, Iranian intelligence has increased its activity against Israel," they said. "The Shin Bet has recently uncovered a number of attempts by Iranian intelligence to recruit Jews [and] Israeli citizens of Iranian descent, who went on family visits to Iran."

There was no comment from the Iranian government.

About 135,000 Israeli Jews trace their roots to Iran, Israeli government figures showed, and many have relatives there. Before Ayatollah Khomeini's 1979 Islamic revolution, ties between the two countries were close.

Israel Army Radio said that about 100 Israelis have visited family members in Iran over the past two years.

The Israeli documents said Iranian intelligence used that fact as an opportunity to press Israeli-Iranians into espionage.

ISTANBUL

They said most of the recent Iranian recruitment attempts began at Iran's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and that at least two people there -- named "Abdalahi" and "Zinali" -- were intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover.

Turkey is a short flight from Tel Aviv and a convenient point for Israelis of Iranian origin seeking to obtain an Iranian passport in order to visit their relatives. Iran does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and does not allow entry on an Israeli passport.

Army Radio cited a senior Shin Bet officer as saying his agency had uncovered 10 recruitment attempts over the past two years.

It said passport applicants at the Istanbul consulate were quizzed about their Israeli military service and about the general economic and security climate in Israel.

Reserve Colonel Shimon Buyavsky, former head of the Iran-Iraq section in Israeli military intelligence, said it was possible that Shin Bet had revealed its findings in order to pressure Israeli civilian authorities to ban such visits.

"I think the aim in making this public is to show Israelis the danger involved, to get the establishment to act against it and to tell the Iranians we know what they're up to," he told Army Radio.

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