TEHRAN/DUBAI - REUTERS/ AFP - Iranian security forces have arrested a “spy” working for the British government in Kerman, a judicial official in the southeastern province told the state IRNA news agency on Saturday.
The announcement came just a day after Iran’s new envoy to Britain, Hassan Habibollah-Zadeh, held talks in London on his first visit since his appointment last month, which ended a two-year freeze in diplomatic relations. “Through the efforts of Iranian security forces, an MI6 spy has been arrested,” the head of the Kerman revolutionary court, Dadkhoda Salari, said, referring to Britain’s foreign intelligence service
“He has met British intelligence officers in person 11 times, both inside the country and abroad, and provided them with intelligence,” Salari said. He said the suspect had confessed to his crimes and was now being tried. Salari gave no details as to the suspect’s nationality or identity.
Britain shut its Tehran embassy after it was badly damaged in November 2011 by students protesting against Western sanctions imposed to put pressure on Iran to rein in its controversial nuclear programme. But relations have improved since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August and Iran signed a landmark deal with major powers last month aimed at allaying concerns over its nuclear ambitions. In November, Iran and Britain each named a non-resident charge d’affaires — a diplomatic post that is one level below ambassador. Iran’s charge held talks in London on Friday, reciprocating a visit to Tehran by his British counterpart Ajay Sharma last week.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office in London said: “We don’t comment on intelligence matters.” The report, which Reuters could not verify, comes at a time when London and Tehran have been taking steps towards restoring diplomatic relations that were broken off after activists stormed the British embassy in Tehran in November 2011. London announced the appointment of Ajay Sharma as non-resident charge d’affaires in Iran in November, and Sharma made his first visit to Iran in that role this month.
In November, six world powers made a breakthrough deal for Tehran to curb its nuclear program in return for limited sanctions easing.
The agreement appeared to face its first major difficulty on Friday with Russia warning that expanding a U.S. sanctions blacklist could seriously complicate the deal’s implementation.