TEHRAN - Iran claimed on Tuesday to have come up with an anti-virus programme against "Flame," extraordinarily sophisticated malware that hit its servers and deployed various spying modules, apparently at the behest of a foreign power.

"Tools to recognise and clean this malware have been developed and, as of today, they will be available for those (Iranian) organisations and companies who want it," Maher, a computer emergency response team coordination centre in Iran's telecommunications ministry, said on its website.

Flame, a crafty volume of code that can steal files, take screenshots, activate computer microphones to record conversations, log keystrokes and carry out other activities controlled remotely, was identified this week by leading anti-virus firms around the world. Maher said Flame was undetectable by 43 different anti-virus programmes it tested, forcing it to come up with its own defence after "months of research." It did not give details of how its Flame-killer worked. Iran appeared to be the main target of the worm-like malware, though it was also detected in other regions, including Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Sudan and Syria.

The virus hit Iran's oil ministry servers in April, forcing authorities to shut them down.

"Experts from Maher... have said that the theft of large volumes of data in recent weeks was caused by Flame," the Fars news agency reported.

Anti-virus experts said Flame was many times more sophisticated than Stuxnet, a virus that in 2010 infected computers running Iran's sensitive uranium enrichment, knocking out hundreds of centrifuges, or a cousin to Stuxnet, Duqu, which struck in 2011.

The staggering complexity of all three of these viruses suggested a nation-state was responsible, with suspicion falling on the United States or Israel.

Flame is "actively being used as a cyber weapon attacking entities in several countries," a top Russian anti-virus software firm, Kaspersky Lab, said in a statement late on Monday, describing its purpose as "cyberespionage."

"The complexity and functionality of the newly discovered malicious programme exceed those of all other cyber menaces known to date," it added.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, hinted that Israel could be behind the attack.

"It's in the nature of some countries or illegitimate regimes to produce viruses and hurt other countries. We hope that these viruses are knocked out and no one gets hurt," he told reporters in his weekly briefing.

Meanwhile, a top Israeli minister said on Tuesday the use of cyberweapons, such as the newly uncovered Flame virus, to counter Iran's nuclear plans would be "reasonable," hinting at Israel's possible involvement.

"For anyone who sees the Iranian threat as significant, it is reasonable that he would take different steps, including these, in order to hobble it," Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon told army radio, just hours after the virus was discovered by Russia's Kaspersky Lab.

"Israel is blessed with being a country which is technologically rich, and these tools open up all sorts of possibilities for us," said Yaalon, who is also Israel's strategic affairs minister.

Kaspersky Lab, one of the world's biggest producers of anti-virus software, said its experts discovered the virus - known as Flame - during an investigation prompted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).