Saudi Interior Ministry Spokesman Makes Contradictory Statements About Iranian Link to Spy Cell

Iran has denied any link to the spy cell arrested in Saudi Arabia, according to Iranian media reports quoted by AFP today. “This is without any foundation. It is a scenario that is being repeated… for domestic consumption,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying, the news agency reported.

Saudi Ministry of Interior spokesman Mansour al-Turki denied that Iran has been linked to the cell. “We have not accused a specific country of standing behind the spy cell for Iran to deny it,” he was quoted as saying by al-Jazirah newspaper today. Al-Turki’s latest statement that came during a press conference at the Officers Club in Riyadh appeared to contradict previous statements he has made about Iran’s link to the spy network. Local English-language daily Arab News quoted him Thursday as saying the alleged spies “have been linked with the Iranian intelligence agency.”

When Saudi Arabia first announced on March 19 that its intelligence service had arrested an Iranian, a Lebanese and 16 Saudi citizens for spying, al-Turki refused to name Iran and instead said the spies were working for a foreign country without naming it. However, local pundits were quick to point fingers to Iran as the two countries are locked in a power struggle for influence in the Middle East.